Three new restaurants turn focus to women

Heraea, which has opened at the Palms — with the subtext “where girls go to play” — is named for the ancient feminine version of the Olympics.

Xishi, expected to open in May, also at the Palms, is named for one of the four beautiful women in ancient China who were said to be sufficiently powerful to bring down kingdoms and empires.

And then there’s SHe, which has opened in Crystals at CityCenter, the source of whose name should be obvious.

So what gives? Why is Las Vegas about to have three new restaurants that are clearly targeted to women? For slightly differing reasons, it seems.

Jonathan Segal is CEO of The One Group, operators of Heraea and Xishi. He said the group actually turned its focus to women with STK, a steakhouse that opened with The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (and is also in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami).

“We’ve been very successful in changing the paradigm of restaurants that were traditionally male-dominated,” Segal said.

The average American steakhouse, he noted, is dark, with lots of leather and wood paneling, and attracts a clientele of about 70 percent men. Very testosterone-centric.

STK, on the other hand, has a lighter atmosphere, with a big bar scene and DJ for energy, and dishes that are available in small, medium and large portions.

“We tried to appeal to a broader demographic,” he said. Examples are crab salad instead of the traditional crab cakes, a mini T-bone, which is a difficult cut to achieve.

Which still doesn’t answer the operative question: Why?

“If you attract the female market, the male market will follow,” Segal said.

Heraea, he said, puts a feminine slant on the traditional sports bar, the idea being that if a guy, or couple, wants to watch a game, a sports bar with a lighter menu and atmosphere might serve as a compromise.

“Women make 95 percent of all decisions,” he said. “We think we do, but we don’t.”

During the conceptual process for Heraea, he held informal focus groups, talking to women at STK about what they wanted. And, it appears, listened.

“We wanted to create a sports restaurant,” Segal said, “not a sports bar, although obviously it has a bar component. You can go and sit down and enjoy the game in a great audio-visual experience without being overwhelmed by it. It doesn’t have 100 TVs, it has just that one central TV over the stage.” There’s a sports book component as well, for betting on games without leaving the restaurant. The menu is lighter, he said, with lower-calorie selections.

SHe, at CityCenter, grew out of Eva Longoria’s Beso. General manager Carissa Villafana-Rowland said the appeal is as clear as the name.

“I believe that women want somewhere to have fun, too,” she said. “Men come out here to gamble, obviously. Women come for shopping.”

Bachelorette parties already are proving to find a home at SHe, she said. The restaurant’s DJs are women, and women dance on a runway through the dining room.

SHe is owned by Morton’s the Steakhouse.

“We are Morton’s girlfriend,” Villafana-Rowland said. “We are the sexy, female version of Morton’s.”

Small plates are a specialty, and steaks offered in She Cuts, He Cuts and We Cuts. Some steaks are 6 ounces, a rarity considering that most restaurant steaks are 8 ounces and up.

“They order a smaller steak, but then they have a chance to order more sides,” she said. “You know women: When we’re together, we’re going to cheat.”

So the question is, are there more of these type of restaurants to come?

“Are we trend-setters?” Segal asked. “I don’t know. I think dining changes.”

He cited restaurant trends that went from nouveau cuisine to family dining to mega-restaurants and more accessible design.

“Now we’re in an environment of dinertainment,” Segal said. “People want more from their dining experience. We went back to what dining really was all about. Originally it was a social interaction. We kind of lost that as we became infatuated with celebrity chefs.

“I want people to meet people. The restaurant is built around the bar because that’s where the energy is.”

But it seems that one thing is, after all, at the heart of the matter.

“They’re successful,” Segal said, “because girls go there.”

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@ or 702-383-0474.

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