Midtown—In one of the most absurd branding decisions in history, Houston's, with city branches on Park Avenue South and East 53rd Street, is gradually changing its name to Hillstone Manhattan, its concept to a more seasonal focus. Houston's, the casual upscale grill that sports 60-minute waits at most hours of most days, is changing its name to something more pretentious and expensive-sounding. Still with us? Because we're not.
The change began over three months ago when Houston's, the restaurant group that owns the New York steakhouses as well as about 50 other restaurants across the country, changed their name to Hillstone. Since then a new website launched and the New York Houston's began their rebranding process.
The menu now has a "Hillstone" header, and just recently hostesses began greeting callers with the new name. According to a hostess reached this morning, the concept of the restaurant has changed to include seasonal items while maintaining a strong focus on the usual steakhouse fare. As for those Houston's signs adorning the exteriors of the restaurants: she says their fates are still up in the air, but they'll probably be changed. It all strikes us as strange given the strong Houston's brand, but perhaps slabs of meat aren't selling the way they used to.
UPDATE: Some new complexities, adding to the weirdness of this news. The corporate office at Hillstone clears up the question about the sign. The Manhattan restaurants will still officially be called Houston's and will keep their signs, even though the hostesses are answering the phone "Hillstone" and printing the name on the menus.
UPDATE: We called corporate and the NYC restaurants again and this time around everyone agreed they are moving forward with the rebranding. Note: this is officially a MESS.
· Hillstone Manhattan [Official Site]