Sonoma County’s Cattlemens restaurant chain buys local shuttered Outback Steakhouse site

It’s not clear yet what’s in store for the shuttered Outback Steakhouse restaurant in Rohnert Park, now that a 54-year-old locally based chain of steakhouses has purchased it.

Cattlemens Inc. purchased the 6,150-square-foot building at 4619 Redwood Drive for $2.25 million on Feb. 15 from the Codding family, according to public records. The Santa Rosa-based chain currently has eight Northern and Central California locations, including Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Dixon in the North Bay.

The deal came as Cattlemens sold its 30,000-square-foot headquarters and warehouse at 250 Dutton Ave. in Santa Rosa to Sonoma County Meat Company on Feb. 3 for $5.3 million. The steakhouse chain plans to keep renting the office space there for its administrative staff for now, according to spokesperson Miranda Smith. As the Business Journal reported earlier this month, the meat processor plans to use the warehouse portion for expansion.

“We're still in the planning and brainstorming phases of what we're going to do,” Smith said.

On March 7, Rohnert Park issued a demolition permit for the property, but that didn’t include removing the structure, according to Jeffrey Beiswenger, city planning manager. No other planning or building permit applications have been filed so far, he said.

Like other restaurants, Cattlemens was hit by a sharp drop-off in customers as a result of the weeks- or months-long shutdowns of inside or outside dining at varying periods since coronavirus pandemic public health orders went into effect in mid-March 2020. But in the past 12 months, patrons have been returning as those rules have been relaxed in different areas of the state, Smith said.

“We’ve been supported in the pandemic,” she said. “There was a drop-off when there was only take-out, but when we were allowed to open for dine-in, our numbers are better than ever.”

Locations in Shasta and Placer counties were the first in the chain to be allowed welcome customers back inside, and Sonoma and Sacramento counties were close behind. Alameda County was the last location to reopen.

But a key revenue driver for Cattlemen’s is beverage alcohol service in the restaurant saloons, and that suffered under the indoor protocols.

“We were not serving the saloons in the same way, as we sat them in a first-come, first-served basis, and that affected sales of cocktails,” Smith said. “Now that we’re getting back to pre-2020 service, we’re seeing those numbers come back up.”

The company had gone take-out of specialty cocktails like mai thais and margueritas under state regulator allowances in the pandemic, but the inability to sell them for delivery orders cut into those sales, Smith said.

Another big adjustment at the beginning of the pandemic for the steakhouse chain was its prime feature.

“We like to hand-cut meat and serve it fresh, so we tried to do all we could with specials to get it out the door,” Smith said. The restaurants also offered to-go raw steak sales for home grilling to move the inventory before it spoiled.

And on top of the operational constraints of the pandemic has been the rapid rise in meat and seafood prices, she said. The company has had a long-standing relationship with Harris Ranch as a meat supplier that has helped to mitigate that somewhat.

Cattlemens was started by rancher Pete Gillham Sr. in 1968, and the first restaurant opened in early 1968 in Redondo Beach (since closed), followed by the Santa Rosa and Petaluma locations in 1970 and Dixon in northern Solano County in 1974. The other California sites in Roseville, Selma, Rancho Cordova, Livermore and Redding opened in the next decade and a half.

Outback vacated its Rohnert Park site on March 31 of last year, according to the The SoMo Group, a property management company for certain Codding family holdings, such as the Walmart- and Home Depot-anchored shopping center in whose parking lot the restaurant was located.

Part of Bloomin’ Brands, Outback has 54 restaurants in California, including one currently in the North Bay, in Vacaville, according to its website.

The number of corporate and franchise Outback locations has contracted in the past two years of the pandemic, according to regulatory filings. There were 694 restaurants at the end of last year, down from 706 at year-end 2020 and 724 as 2019 closed.

Gil Saydah of Keegan & Coppin Co. Inc. represented Cattlemens Inc. in the 4619 Redwood transaction, and John Schaefer of Keystone Real Estate Advisors represented seller C. Codding Holdings LLC.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before the Business Journal, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He has a degree from Walla Walla University. Reach him at or 707-521-4256.

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