11:19am | Yard House Restaurants, a casual chain of restaurant-bars born in Long Beach’s Shoreline Village and once known for serving beer in 3-foot-long glasses, announced it plans to open eight locations within the next year.
The expansion, which has continued at a strong pace following a sale in 2007 by its founders of 70 percent of the operation to private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners out of San Francisco, is part of the chain’s plans for continued future growth, according to Founder and Chairman Steele Platt.
Platt said Wednesday the next the next steps in Yard House’s growth as a company are at hand. “We’re getting close to the next step, which is reacquisition or go public,” he said.
Despite the down economy, the performance of the private Irvine-based company as a chain and that of its individual locales has remained strong throughout the years, Platt said. “We’ve been growing ever since we started and we never stopped,” he added.
Yard House, which boasts the “world’s largest selection of draft beer,” early this year announced it will open a location in Westchester County, New York in October. That will be followed by a location in Virginia at the Town Center in Virginia Beach in November, and Yard House will add another California location in December. The new location, opening in Fresno, brings the California count up to 17.
Yard House will open five locations in 2012 starting in March with its second Massachusetts location at Fenway Triangle in Boston. In April, the company will open in Georgia at Atlantic Station in Atlanta, and in May it will open its third Colorado location in Lone Tree, 30 miles south of Denver.
The company will open its first Pacific Northwest location in June at Pioneer Place near downtown Portland, Ore., and Yard House will open its fourth Florida location next summer at Mizner Park in Boca Raton.
“We have been expanding an accelerated, but comfortable rate,” Harald Herrmann, president and CEO of Yard House Restaurants said in a statement. “We will continue to focus our expansion efforts into new markets, continue branding the Yard House concept, recruit new employees while promoting from within, and carry on with our philosophy of giving back to the communities that have been so supportive of us.”
Platt, who opened the first Yard House in Shoreline Village in 1996, said that when he returns to the Long Beach location “it’s like it just opened yesterday.” He added, “The Long Beach site has always been in the top five in the chain.”
Each restaurant averages 10,000-square-feet of space with a guest capacity of 400, and 130 taps of beer. Yard House employs an average of 200 people at each location. The menu now includes more than 140 items.
Yard House eliminated its namesake yard-long beer glasses in 2005 in what Platt said was a move toward “corporate responsibility.” At the time Platt said ridding the establishments of the lengthy glasses was to help prevent over-serving alcohol and due to the danger to patrons the larger glasses posed from tip-over accidents and resulting glass breakage.
Platt has attributed the success of Yard House largely to brand building, as well as the large selection of beer. When he opened the Long Beach location, microbreweries were burgeoning, as beer drinkers turned from staples favored by older generations toward new imported and domestic brands.
Platt, who earned a degree in business administration from the University of Denver in 1982, had launched several restaurant-bar concepts in Denver, one of which was the forerunner for the Yard House. The Boiler Room, which he eventually sold, served more than two dozen tap beers and operated on a concept similar to that of Yard House: “Great food, classic rock, and a vast selection of draft beer,” Platt said.
It was back in 1996 when Platt, then a bartender in Orange County, happened upon an abandoned waterfront restaurant at Shoreline Village in Long Beach, he drafted a business plan, met with the center's landlord and raised funding from more than three dozen local investors.
He converted the dance floor into a bar as big as he could possibly make it, and he stuffed as many tap handles as he could into the space. A bar was born.