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Welcome to Amazing Tap Handles - The Tap Handle Museum. Here you will find photos of the Museum's collection of beer taps, along with brewery info. Have a look around the Museum, and use the contact form in sidebar to leave me feedback about the site, talk about taps, or if you have a rare tap handle you'd like to sell to the Museum. I'd love to hear from you! Please, no inquires about buying taps - they're not for sale.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tap Handle #468: Original Roadhouse Grill - Honey Blonde

Tap Size:  9.25"
Rarity:  Scarce
Mounting:  standard 3/8" ferrule on 5/16" anchor bolt

Although the Original Roadhouse Grill has an extensive history, this tap is associated with the west coast franchises that came under the ownership of the Cimmarusti brothers, dating the tap to the late 2000s. With only 8 initial franchise locations, and 3 taps per location (Honey Blonde, Brown, and IPA), you can do the math to figure out that very few of these were ever made. It makes the tap very scarce, and this is only the third one I've ever seen appear on the secondary market. The fact that it is a peanut is significant, as Roadhouse Grill restaurants are known for supplying bowls of free peanuts to patrons to snack on while waiting for their meals (and throwing the shells on the floor). Although the tap isn't as elaborate as other taps, its rarity and simple but effective appearance (it does look like a real peanut) make it highly collectible.

Click through to read more about Original Roadhouse Grill, their Honey Blonde Ale, and to see more photos of this iconic tap...

The Roadhouse Grill restaurant chain was founded in 1992 by J. David Toole III and John Y. Brown. Toole had been regional supervisor for Ryan's Family Steak House and had helped develop Logan's Roadhouse, a midwest-based restaurant chain. Brown was also a veteran of the restaurant industry, as a former chairman of Kentucky Fried Chicken and founder of Kenny Rogers' Roasters. Toole joined Brown in 1992 after leaving the Logan's project, and the two men began developing Roadhouse Grill. The first Roadhouse Grill opened in Pembrooke Pines, Florida, in March 1993. Along with bringing restaurant industry experience to the company, Brown was also able to provide the financial support to get the company off the ground. The three investment groups that backed the Roadhouse concept were all financially connected to Brown's Kenny Rogers' Roasters. In the first calendar year of operation, Toole, Brown, and their investors were able to open six restaurants, all located in the Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties of southeast Florida.

Despite increasing competition developing in the steakhouse market, Roadhouse Grill took on a very aggressive expansion campaign in its second year. With money supplied by the three initial investors, Toole and Brown opened another 10 restaurants, bringing the total number of units in operation to 16. This expansion moved the company into northern Florida and Georgia. It was during this growth spurt that the company opened its first ground-up prototype unit, in Deerfield Beach, Florida, occupying 7,500 square feet and seating nearly 230. Prior to that point in time, the company had merely been renovating existing buildings and turning them into Roadhouse Grill units. The new Roadhouse Grill unit cost the company about $1.1 million to build.

Unfortunately, the rapid pace of expansion initially forced Toole to put some inexperienced managers in charge of fully operational facilities. The company was young and did not have a large enough base of employees to ensure that experienced people ran each restaurant. Luckily for Toole, however, the quick growth of the company and its rising sales worked to hide this problem. Later, as word spread of Roadhouse Grill's success, they had no problem finding more qualified managers for the restaurants. These employees played a big role in the success of the company, which placed great pride in its customer service.

Each restaurant was designed with a honky-tonk feel. Adding to this laid-back feeling were the barrels of peanuts found throughout the restaurant; customers were encouraged to eat the peanuts as they waited for their meal and to toss the shells on the floor. The restaurant's interior was designed around multilevel seating that allowed patrons to view the grill and the kitchen. Customers could watch the steaks being prepared on a mesquite grill, alongside crocks of homemade soup and containers of hand-cranked ice cream. There was even an in-house bakery where customers could watch biscuits being made before being brought to their table. The menu at each Roadhouse Grill featured steaks, ribs, chicken, and seafood--all grilled to order.

By 1994 the restaurant chain was holding its own against the bigger competition supplied by the Outback, Lone Star, and Longhorn Steak Houses, with an average of $3 million in revenue per unit per year. The company continued to expand throughout the remainder of 1994 and into 1995. Meanwhile, management began to question whether to look for further funding from private sources or to go public to fund the company's future. In February 1995, the Berjaya Group became the majority backer of the company by providing $22.5 million in funds, giving it a 52 percent stake in the company. Berjaya also became a licensee of the company and began plans to develop Roadhouse Grill units in Malaysia.

Also in 1995, Toole began to negotiate franchise deals for Roadhouse Grill. A San Diego-based company, HomeTown Buffet, became one of the first to franchise the restaurants and thus bring Roadhouse Grill to the west coast. The group's first Roadhouse Grill franchise, located in Gresham, Oregon, performed extremely well, prompting HomeTown to open a second unit in the San Diego area. One year later, HomeTown Buffet was purchased by Buffets, Inc., the owner and operator of the Old Country Buffet chain. Plans were developed to transform some HomeTown Buffets into Roadhouse Grills in locations where HomeTown and Old Country Buffets were located in close proximity.

By 1996 Roadhouse Grill had grown to include 30 company-owned restaurants and 6 franchised or licensed units and returned its first profit in 1996. Though the company had made positive impressions, clouds of doubt began to swirl around the restaurant sector and Roadhouse Grill as the date for the IPO drew closer. Concerns about rising food and labor costs, combined with increasing competition in the steakhouse segment, became a sore point with potential investors. Roadhouse's management made assurances that the company would do everything possible to continue identifying and responding to the changing conditions in the restaurant business. Roadhouse's assurances were not enough to keep the stock price from falling, however. When trading finally began in late 1996, the stock price was marked down to $6 from the initial level of $9-$11. The company, which still managed to raise $15 million from the sale of 2.5 million shares, used the proceeds from the public offering to pay back debts to a former chairman, with the remainder of the money being used to fund the company's continued expansion.

In 1997, Toole officially resigned as president and CEO of Roadhouse Grill, Inc. After having built Roadhouse Grill from the ground up, Toole had paved the way for someone to step in and lead the company into its next round of expansion. In just four years of existence, Roadhouse Grill had grown to include more than 40 company-owned restaurants in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Ohio, and New York, 8 franchise locations, and the company was expecting to add another 20 units in 1998. Over the next 10 years, however, the new leadership did not prove as adept as Toole had been. Customer service began to slip, captured in negative reviews on sites like Yelp. Poor sales led to lower revenues, location closures, and declining stock prices. By the time the company filed for bankruptcy protection in late 2007, only 20 locations remained, but they were all closed by 2008 as the company was forced into liquidation.

In 2009, three former employees of the Tonawanda, New York location near Buffalo, New York, reopened the restaurant under the name Buffalo Roadhouse Grill. Also, the franchises on the west coast and Malaysia were purchased by Larry and Ralph Cimmarusti. The two brothers had started an Italian Deli in Hollywood, California after leaving college. The first restaurant was actually an open-fronted Hollywood vegetable market purchased for $5,000 that was converted into an Italian Deli. Frequented by the stars that lived in the Hollywood Hills, the deli thrived. The company then became franchisees of Burger King and soon rated as one of the top 100 largest restaurant franchisees in the country. Building on its success, they branched out into casual dining to become one of the largest franchisees of Tony Roma’s Restaurants in Southern California, and then purchased the Original Roadhouse Grill franchises, expanding from 8 locations to 11, as well as owning several large real estate developments.

The Original Roadhouse Grill's Honey Blonde Ale is an American-style blonde that is contract brewed by Firestone Walker under a private label for the west coast franchises owned by the Cimmarusti brothers. That means that Original Roadhouse Grill can slap their own name on the brew (and tap) and call it their own. Firestone Walker contract brews Honey Blonde and IPA for a number of different restaurants under this private label arrangement.

There is no entry on Ratebeer or Beer Advocate for Original Roadhouse Grill. Firestone Walker's Private Label Honey Blonde is listed on Beer Advocate, with a rating of 82 out of 100 (good).

Original Roadhouse Grill, LLC 
3061 Riverside Drive 
Los Angeles CA 90039

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