SOURCE: Yard House Restaurants

July 10, 2008 10:15 ET

Yard House Restaurants Rewards 100 Employees With Phase Two of Its Equity Stake Program

Introduced in 2005, Limited Ownership for Employees Has Helped to Create a Solid Team for This Award-Winning Restaurant Group

IRVINE, CA--(Marketwire - July 10, 2008) - Some 100 employees of Yard House USA, Inc., a 20-unit casual restaurant chain known for its American Fusion fare and world's largest selection of draft beer, are celebrating. The group, which consists of a cross-section of employees including everyone from assistant restaurant managers to entry-level office workers, have been tapped to receive equity stake after a five-year vesting period. The company first began offering limited ownership opportunities in 2005 when a trio of long-time employees was the first to benefit.

Founded in 1995 by seasoned restaurateur Steele Platt and headquartered in Irvine, California, the once privately held company sold 70-percent of its interest to a private-equity firm last year as part of a strategic growth plan to take the award-winning concept nationwide. Currently there are 20 units throughout Southern California and Arizona with single units in Denver, suburban Chicago, Kansas City, Palm Beach Gardens, Waikiki, and Las Vegas.

When Yard House first introduced its equity incentive program, three long-term employees credited with helping to make Yard House one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the country were rewarded for their efforts. Among them was a former line cook, who started with the company before the first restaurant opened its doors, and has risen through the ranks to become the company's regional kitchen manager. As part of the second vesting phase, more than 100 employees, including those based at the company's home office in Irvine, California, and several assistant general managers, are now eligible to take part in the program.

"We're extremely grateful for the many contributions our employees have made to get us to this point," says Platt, founder and chief executive officer. "We feel it's important to reward our hard working and dedicated team members, and this is one of the most effective and meaningful ways to show our appreciation. Each and every one has been instrumental in building a solid foundation for the company."

While Yard House was initially to be a stop-over on their way to establishing careers elsewhere, many of the recipients, such as Jennifer Morrison, found their professional callings instead. Like every college student, Jennifer needed a job for spending money and was hired by Yard House as a server. Upon graduation, she took an outside sales position with a major firm while continuing to work at Yard House. Her intent was always to quit her "side" job and focus on her "real" job, but instead she ended up quitting her "real" job to concentrate on a career with Yard House. Jennifer is now in charge of the company's extensive employee training program Yard Core, where she serves as training and development coordinator.

Aurea Victoria has a similar story. After graduating college she accepted a job several hundred miles away from Southern California. Bad weather and pangs of homesickness brought her back to the region. She needed a job while she looked for her "dream job," so she went to work in the home office of Yard House as a payroll clerk. After three months, the business marketing major learned of an opening in the company's marketing department. After meeting with her supervisor and convincing Harald Herrmann, president and COO of Yard House that she might be a good fit for the job, she was hired as the new marketing coordinator. Unwittingly, she found her dream job and, less than a year after being hired, is able to take part in the company's equity stake program.

"What truly impressed me about Yard House was their willingness to invest in me," says Aurea. "They helped develop my strengths, created a life changing opportunity, and are now rewarding my efforts. I don't know many companies that do as much for their employees. It makes me feel valued."

Yard House is among only a handful of casual-restaurant chains to offer employees equity stake. Platt and his partners, Harald Herrmann and Carlito Jocson, have found such a plan to be a powerful retention tool in what many consider a highly competitive industry. By creating limited ownership, Yard House has created a consistent product, as well as service, at each of its locations. Platt has also found that such a plan has appealed to industry veterans, as well as those who want a career in the restaurant industry. On average, Yard House receives approximately 1,000 applications for employment when recruiting for a new restaurant location.

"We're expanding at an incredible rate," says partner Harald Herrmann, president and chief operating officer for Yard House USA, Inc.. "We need the best the industry has to offer, both in front of the house and at the heart of the house. We want our staff to think of Yard House as if were their own venture, not just a place to pass time and collect a paycheck. The truth is every employee's contribution matters, from the receptionist answering the phones at our home office to the server who directly interacts with our guests."

In addition to the equity stake incentive, employees can also receive additional benefits such as performance-based promotions, 401(K) plan, comprehensive training, a 50-hour/5-day work week, two consecutive days off, family health benefits, life insurance, paid vacations, and dining privileges.

Yard House USA, Inc., which grossed more than $138 million in 2007, is based in Irvine, California. Sales are expected to reach more than $177 million this year.

Last month Yard House opened Yard House Bar & Grill in Chino Hills, a suburban community located about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. The restaurant, a "little sister" to the original concept, is a neighborhood eatery offering some of Yard House's most popular dishes and a selection of 50 beers on tap. First year sales are estimated to be more than $6 million.

About Yard House USA, Inc.:

Yard House USA, Inc. was created by restaurant veteran Steele Platt in 1995. Platt, along with his partners launched the first Yard House restaurant a year later along the Long Beach waterfront just south of Los Angeles. Today there are 19 units in eight states. In 2007, Platt and his partners, Harald Herrmann and Carlito Jocson, sold 70% of the company to a private-equity firm in order to take the company nationwide. Yard House has received rave reviews from both consumer and trade publications and is the recipient of many dining accolades and awards. Most recently it was named as having the "Best Beer List" by both Nation's Restaurant News and Cheers Magazine. For more information visit www.yardhouse.com.

Facts At-A-Glance:
Founder & CEO: Steele Platt
Headquarters:  Irvine, California -- Orange County
Founded: 1996
Holdings:  19 units/7 states:  California, Arizona, Kansas, Hawaii,
           Florida, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada
Employees:  3100
Financials:  $138 million in sales for 2007
Average Check Per Person:  $14 lunch/$22 dinner

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Elizabeth Borsting
    562.856.9292