Raising the Bar Award
When Kip Snider joined the Yard House Restaurants beverage team 14 years ago, he loved what he describes as the pure excitement and fast pace he found behind the bar. The Irvine, CA-based concept had only two restaurants at the time; Snider would be behind the energetic drive to pump the chain’s total locations up to 42 as of early 2013.
Although the pace of national expansion wasn’t neatly written in the cards more than a decade ago, “I knew that after [opening] the second or third location that this was something that would take off,” Snyder says.
Yard House, which was acquired by Darden Restaurants in 2012 for $585 million, was one of the first regional, and then national operators, to seriously cater to craft beer drinkers. The chain’s commitment was reflected in both the number and breath of regional beers that it offers, as well as the assortment of glassware it uses to serve them to its guests. “Eight vessels for [serving] beer is pretty advanced,” Snider notes.
The company’s drinks program is also constantly evolving, and the food and beverage team’s focus on wine and spirits has continued to grow. Snider adds that the program has expanded to primarily focus on brown spirits and unique spirits categories such as mezcal.
The wine program is slated to include wines from other domestic regions like those from Washington, as well as more imported wines. The group’s happy hour program continues to expand as well: Snider notes that while it was once primarily focused on Martinis and beer, Yard House’s happy hour now includes specialty cocktails and other drinks.
HAPPY STAFF, HAPPY GUESTS
Yard House, which plans to open eight to nine new locations this year, boasts about 40% of its total revenue in beer, wine and spirits sales. As of 2012 Snider was responsible for more than $110 million in beverage sales.
Snyder has four basic principles for inspiring his team on a regular basis: Treat guests as if they were in their own home; have fun and smile behind the bar; take time to do things right; and learn something new every day.
What still inspires Snider more than anything, he says, “is seeing team members and guests enjoying themselves.” He also notes that you have to love your job, “and at the end of the day, I would rather not do anything else.”