Ponderosa’s closing due to economic decline

A representative of the company that ran the Ponderosa Steakhouse in Park Hills Plaza said the recent closing reflects a gradual decline in business as a result of the economy.

“It wasn’t any particular competitor,” Jon Rice, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Ponderosa’s parent company, Homestyle Dining LLC in Plano, Texas, said this week. “It was just a gradual decline in business over time.”

The area’s longtime restaurant known for casual dining and buffets closed Sunday and left about 40 part-time employees looking for work.

Local Manager John Brumbaugh said the decision to close rested with the corporate office. Brumbaugh said he was trying to help employees find jobs and appreciated calls from other restaurants looking for employees.

Altoona’s Ponderosa Steakhouse began using that name on March 1, 1980, after having operated as a Patriot Steak House. The change was a result of a buyout that occurred two years earlier, when the Ponderosa chain bought several Patriot Steak House restaurants in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“We enjoyed many years in Altoona, and the closing is unfortunate,” Rice said.

During the last 30-plus years, Altoona’s selection of buffet-style and steakhouse restaurants has increased substantially, with the newest competitor, Longhorn Steakhouse, opening in October 2011, about a half mile away from the Ponderosa Steakhouse.

Rice said his company made efforts to be competitive.

“We’ve been working to improve the Altoona restaurant for quite some time,” he said.

That included inside and outside remodeling, in addition to a 2003 expansion which added about 30 seats.

“But we didn’t see enough response to the improvements we made,” Rice said.

Meanwhile, Ponderosa restaurants in the Johnstown, DuBois and Indiana areas are expected to remain open.

“We’re still committed to the Pennsylvania market,” Rice said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.