Simms: founder with cucumber mint martini at Orange restaurant

Simms: founder with cucumber mint martini at Orange restaurant

The Cajun-seasoned French fries with a side of chipotle ranch and wok-fired calamari at Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar are far from cafe fare.

That’s why it made sense to change the chain’s name from Lazy Dog Café to Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, said Chief Executive and founder Chris Simms.

“We have really been focusing on the food and beverage program and taking that to the next level, and we didn’t feel like ‘the cafe’ accurately described the breadth and creativity,” he said, referring to the name change last year. “We’re really serious about food and bar.”

The Huntington Beach-based chain has 12 company-owned restaurants in Southern California and operates in the premium casual dining segment with its twists on classic menu items that include an Asian ahi tuna burger and black and bleu brick-oven pizza.

The fare is served in homey, lodge-style settings, with restaurants averaging 7,800 square feet.

Simms, 38, came up with the Lazy Dog name following a Wyoming vacation when he spotted a dog lounging by a fireplace, choosing it to go along with the restaurant’s cozy atmosphere.

The name change is intended to help nab more customers new to the brand, especially as the chain tries to grow in Northern California. It plans to open its first location there in October in Concord.

“A lot of people look at the sign and make a decision about whether to come inside,” Simms said. “The more they can understand quickly from the exterior, the better decision they can make about whether to walk in.”

The expansion comes as the chain prepares to celebrate its 10-year anniversary next month.

New Locations

The Concord location will be the company’s second new restaurant this year after San Diego, which opened last month.

Lazy Dog is eyeing as many as three restaurant openings for next year that could include Northern and Southern California locations.

Concord isn’t considered a one-off location in the region for the chain. Simms said the company has identified “several neighborhoods in Northern California” that would be good for a Lazy Dog restaurant.

The new restaurants this year and Lazy Dog’s plans for next year are big moves for a company that has slowly built up its portfolio over the past decade.

Last year saw the opening of its 9,000-square-foot flagship location in Brea, which has a 1,000-square-foot test kitchen.

The company employs about 50 people at its headquarters and 1,800 companywide.