The Untold Truth Of Yard House

Depending on where you live in the United States, chances are you aren't too far away from a Yard House — especially if you live in California, where the restaurant originated. The craft beer-obsessed chain has been in operation for over 25 years as of 2022, with dozens of locations nationwide and new ones opening regularly. Perhaps you are familiar with their signature half yard of beer, or maybe you have stopped by for a bite from the extensive options.

When we say many dishes, we mean it; Yard House claims to offer over 100 homemade items on its menu. Dishes include everything from cheeseburgers to Nashville hot chicken with sweet potato pancakes, as well as a variety of vegetarian and vegan meals from the Gardein menu.

No matter how many times you have dined at a Yard House, we are willing to bet there is a thing or two you have yet to discover about the chain. Let's dive in and unpack some of the untold truths about Yard House, from its location-specific beer menus and massive selection of food to how the company has grown over the years.

Elvira (yes, Mistress of the Dark) poured beer at the grand opening

Yard House's story begins in the 1990s when the American craft beer industry was just beginning to experience a sudden boom in popularity (via NBC). Even the biggest restaurant chain you can imagine has to begin with its first grand opening. For Yard House, that happened to take place in Long Beach, California, specifically in the Shoreline Village shopping and dining district. According to Press-Telegram, Yard House was founded with the mission to create "the world's greatest tap room" and welcomed its first visitors in early December 1996.

Yard House's opening was certainly one to be remembered. To celebrate the grand event, the tap house concocted its very own beer called "Elvira's Night Brew," which paid homage to the Mistress of the Dark. And wouldn't you believe it, Elvira came to the grand opening and poured the beers herself!

Yard House has hundreds of beers on tap – and it has always been that way

Yard House's claim to fame has long been the sheer quantity of beer on tap. Visit any of the locations today and you'll find what it claims is "the world's largest selection of draft beer." But this was not a feat accomplished over time; Yard House has always operated with a vast selection of brews.

When the establishment was first in development, plans included having a choice of up to 400 beers on tap, according to Press-Telegram. However, when the restaurant actually opened in 1996, the final tally included 250 options — still mighty impressive for a brand-new venue. It is even more remarkable when you consider the popularity of craft beer at the time, compared with present-day. Before 1990, the Brewers Association reports little to no growth in the number of breweries in the United States; there were 188 breweries in 1960, growing to only 284 by 1990. However, things started to pick up in the 1990s — by 1996, the year Yard House opened its doors, the number of breweries had grown to 1,149. As of 2021, 9,247 breweries were operating in the country.

Nowadays, the average number of beers on tap at any given Yard House hovers a little over 100. If you're a beer connoisseur, you'll have plenty to choose from, whether you prefer a hoppy IPA or a malty stout.

One state is teeming with Yard House locations

Yard House experienced quick success upon opening, and when the Long Beach location celebrated its 20th anniversary, Shoreline Village property manager Debra Fixen praised it for consistently being a strong financial performer in the shopping district (via Press-Telegram). Expansion seemed inevitable and within a few years, additional Yard House locations began to open around Southern California. 

A second restaurant was launched in Costa Mesa's Triangle Square center in 1999, and a short couple of years after, a third one opened in Irvine, California. With two locations in Orange County, Yard House officially moved its headquarters to Irvine. By 2012, roughly 16 years after its original grand opening, Yard House had opened 39 restaurants around the country. California continues to hold the lion's share of Yard House locations. As of 2022, 25 of its 80-plus restaurants can be found in the Golden State.

What do Yard House and Olive Garden have in common?

Yard House may have started out as an independently-owned operation, but it soon joined a portfolio of nationally-recognized brands. Nation's Restaurant News reports that it was first acquired in 2007 by the private equity company TSG Consumer. As the chain continued to expand across the country, Yard House's growth caught the attention of other investors. 

Five years later, it traded hands and was sold to Darden Restaurants, which also owns a number of massive chains including Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse. According to Miami New Times, the purchase price was a whopping $585 million, which wasn't much considering Darden's $8 billion in annual sales.  In fact, the company's portfolio of close to 2,000 restaurants makes it one of the top 50 private employers in the country. In the 10 years since its acquisition, Yard House has nearly doubled its locations across the United States. 

Visiting China soon? You'll find Yard House, but it's not what you think

After establishing over 80 locations across the United States, you might wonder if Yard House ever began to set its sights globally. While officially owned and licensed Yard House restaurants are only found in the U.S. as of 2022, there happens to be an identically named and branded restaurant overseas. According to Seeking Alpha, Yard House opened in 2016 in a popular shopping district in Beijing, China. However, the restaurant is not owned by Yard House USA, Inc. or Darden Restaurants. 

In a series of missteps, it turns out that Yard House did not acquire trademark protections overseas. This allowed for an international trademark application for "YARDHOUSE" in 2013, and the following year, a Chinese trademark registration was approved. Two years later, the Beijing Yard House location opened its doors, unlike any of the restaurants you would come across in the States. The Asian location includes vaping rooms in addition to a beer garden, a vegan cafe, and weekly poker tournaments.

No two Yard House beer menus are the same

Since its original grand opening and the exclusive Elvira's Night Brew, Yard House has remained committed to including unique, hyper-local beers on its tap menu. In fact, the beer menu at any given Yard House location can provide many hints as to the part of the country where you find yourself. Beers from regional breweries as well as exclusive in-house beers (which are the result of collaborations with favorite brewers) ensure that each Yard House restaurant has its own custom beer menu, with no two 100% alike.

With so many beers to choose from, you may feel a twinge of indecisiveness. Don't worry: Yard House sells a number of different beer flights, allowing guests to sample their way through the menu. You can choose from curated flights that include a tour of regional beers based on the location of that particular Yard House, or you can build your own flight depending on your personal preferences.

A team of beer experts select customized menus for each location

When it comes to dream jobs, beer taste-tester is probably a career path that many individuals have at the top of their list. If you have ever wanted to become a beer expert (essentially get paid to experiment with different brews and build one-of-a-kind tap menus), you may be able to accomplish that wish at Yard House. After all, when its signature offering is a massive beer menu, it's crucial that the best team be assembled to execute the task at each location.

So what does a beer expert do at Yard House, exactly? The team curates regional menus by ensuring that only the highest-quality beers appear in the selection. This reinforces Yard House's commitment to featuring an exclusive selection highlighting the best local offerings. The beer experts also curate regional beer flights based on specialties. The team revisits the menus multiple times a year, deliberating for approximately four months to come to the top choices.

Yard House's signature beer serving size could be used as a unit of measurement

There are plenty of unique stories behind the names of your favorite companies, and Yard House is no exception. The restaurant's biggest claim to fame is likely its half yard of beer. In addition to traditional beer serving sizes (such as pints or full pub glasses), guests can order their favorite beers in a 32-ounce glass, aka the half yard. According to The Bank, a yard of beer was a three-foot glass originally designed in 17th century Great Britain for stagecoach drivers. The Motley Fool reports that this measurement became the inspiration behind the restaurant's name.

Believe it or not, the beers at Yard House used to be served in those three foot-glasses — we're talking full yards (via The Mercury News). In an interview with Oregon Live, co-founder Harald Hermann noted that the change to half-yards was to "make sure that the perception of us as a brand wasn't tied to that three-foot glass." However, for those eager to drink from tall glasses, the 32-ounce vessels are still in good supply at your nearest location.

Each Yard House contains a glass-enclosed keg room

With over 100 beers on tap at each location, Yard House needs a pretty sophisticated keg system to keep the brews flowing day in and day out. While you might think that having an organized bar area would suffice, the company makes sure that each restaurant has a designated keg room as well. In fact, one of the signature features of Yard House is its glass-enclosed keg room, which can store up to 5,000 gallons of beer at any given time (that's a lot of beer).

According to The Banks, there are three to five miles of beer lines at a Yard House restaurant, in order to keep the beer at a consistent temperature between 34 F to 36 F (because nothing is worse than lukewarm beer). Due to the nature of the glass keg room design, guests can easily take a peek inside and see Yard House's system at work.

Don't enjoy beer? No problem, there's plenty to choose from

Yard House was established on a foundation of plentiful beer and there's no question that it's the hallmark beverage. However, we'll admit that beer might not be for everyone. Yes, we know that for some of you, that might be hard to imagine. But rest assured, not everyone's eyes light up when they see rows and rows of tap handles. It could be personal preference, or maybe you simply don't like the flavor of beer.

If you would like to enjoy another beverage, you can still have a great time at Yard House. The cocktail menu is fully stocked with all of the usual suspects: martinis, mojitos, margaritas, and mules are just some of the drinks you can sip on. Yard House also offers an array of red and white wines. And if you would rather skip the alcohol altogether on your next visit, there are also zero-proof beverages available.

The CEO designed Yard House's music playlist every morning for 15 years

A large menu alone does not a good restaurant make. While Yard House boasts a wide selection of both beer and food, the overall atmosphere adds to the guest experience, and that includes the music played throughout the dining and bar areas. Good music was a company priority from the start, and it has continued to be a part of the daily routine for years.

In an interview with Palm Springs Life, co-founder Steele Platt mentioned the importance of music in Yard House's formative years. He even recounted that he hand-picked the playlist every morning for 15 years and was the sole Yard House employee to do so. Platt noted that he took 45 minutes out of his morning each day to curate a playlist based on the time of day that customers would be dining, whether it was in the afternoon or late at night for drinks after dinner.

Yard House executives helped establish Round It Up America

Yard House happens to be actively involved with charities, including one that its executives helped found themselves. Co-founder Harald Herrmann and brand director Jennifer Weerheim started Round It Up America in 2009. The nonprofit organization's mission is to assist individual and collective efforts to raise money for other charities and programs that provide important resources across the country. It accomplishes its goal by donating a minimum of 91 cents directly to a charity for every dollar raised.

Herrmann felt a responsibility to give back to the community as the financial success of Yard House continued to grow over the years. Round It Up America was initially launched through Yard House restaurants, but since its foundation, many participating for-profit businesses engage in Round It Up America initiatives. Other companies include Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ, Chuck E. Cheese's & Petter Piper Pizza, and the Holiday Inn.