Steele Platt, founder of Yard House Restaurants, has always possessed an entrepreneurial spirit. He is considered both a visionary and industry leader having begun his career more than 30 years ago. Like most restaurateurs, Platt's career started in the heart of the house where he washed dishes while attending high school on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. After graduation he enrolled in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Denver working his way through college as a busboy, bar back, server and bartender. Armed with a business degree and plenty of experience, the twenty-something Platt created his first Denver restaurant, Kailua's, which paid homage to his Hawaiian hometown - Kailua. Within five years Platt's portfolio grew to include a half-dozen themed restaurants plus EFEX, Denver's largest nightclub at the time.
In the early 1990s Platt sold his mini-empire and headed to Southern California. He settled in Orange County where he enjoyed the surf, sand, and sun and, within two years, his fortune had dwindled. His story went from riches to rags as he worked two jobs, car salesman by day and bartender by night, just to make ends meet. After stumbling upon an abandoned waterfront restaurant in Long Beach, he began to plot his next career move and restaurant concept. While he was bartending at a restaurant in Huntington Beach he wrote the business plan for a concept he called Yard House. He borrowed elements from The Boiler Room, one of his successful Denver establishments, and added additional components that would make his new concept a dining revolution. The Yard House, named for the glass yard served during Colonial times, would feature a vast selection of draft beer, a continuous playlist of classic and contemporary rock, and an eclectic menu of both classic and innovative fare.
As the first and, for the time being, only employee of his new company Yard House Restaurants, Platt assumed many roles from arranging the financing and lease negotiations to creating the restaurant's conceptual design. On December 7, 1996, the first Yard House opened in Shoreline Village along the Long Beach waterfront and featured 250 taps of beer, an extensive menu of American fusion cuisine, and a state-of-the-art audio and video system with each song and artist hand selected by Platt from his private music library. To this day Platt has never relinquished his role as the company's music mastermind and continues to create the daily playlist for each Yard House restaurant.
Realizing he couldn't grow the concept alone, Platt hired a general manager, Harald Herrmann, who in turn recommended an award-winning chef - Carlito Jocson. The two were eventually made partners in the one restaurant company as a result of their extensive industry experience and their dedication in helping to grow the Yard House concept.
Tapped as Ernst and Young Orange County Entrepreneur of Year in 2003, as well as the Orange County Business Journal Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005, Steele Platt is often a keynote speaker at industry events and an inspiration to aspiring restaurateurs and entrepreneurs. Recognizing that his road to success was not a solo journey, Platt, along with his partners began offering equity stake to other members of the Yard House team who have been instrumental in the company's growth. In 2007, 70% of Yard House Restaurants was sold to a private equity firm; however, Platt and his partners continue to have a financial interest in the company and oversee the day-to-day operations for the entire Yard House portfolio.