Eddie Merlot’s was founded in 2001 by William C. Humphries, who currently serves as Chief Executive Officer. President Geoff Stiles runs the daily operation and was past president and Chief Operating Officer of Ruth Chris Steakhouse (2000—2008).
After 15 years, Eddie Merlot’s introduced a prototype design, which caters to the modern sensibilities and needs of its diners. It forgoes the Mediterranean exterior of its existing restaurants in favor of a contemporary look. The interior dining room is smaller, with three enclosed areas for business functions or private events and a lounge area which is twice the size of other Eddie Merlot’s lounges.
The prototype restaurant was designed to better support Eddie Merlot’s three areas of business: private functions, lounge, and a la carte dining. The large lounge area is a direct response to changing dining habits. “We’re seeing our lounges so busy, especially on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night,” founder and CEO Bill Humphries says. “People wear jeans and maybe a sport coat.” The interior of the restaurant retains the Eddie Merlot’s signature contemporary open concept which utilizes light woods, stained glass, and back lit onyx stone.
Eddie Merlot’s is a scratch kitchen and only uses the highest quality food prepared with the freshest ingredients and provides the guest with an exceptional experience of enjoying Prime Aged Beef. In the premium section of the menu, Eddie Merlot’s is proud to serve a Wylarah Wagyu Filet Mignon (Marble Score 9); Wylarah was the 2015 Grand Champion at the World Wagyu Forum. In addition, the Greg Norman Signature New York 20 oz. Bone-in Wagyu (Marble Score 6-7) is a product exclusive to Eddie Merlot’s; they are the only restaurant in the United States which has the cut. Also in the premium section of the menu is the Superior Farms Prime Lamb Chops, a refined philosophical expression of Holistic Lamb. If you are looking for a healthier option, Eddie Merlot’s offers 2 cuts of Bison, a 6 oz. filet (195 calories, 36 grams protein, 4.5 grams fat) or 18 oz. Bison Ribeye (585 calories, 117 grams protein, 13.5 grams fat). A perfect partner to the excellent beef is the finest seafood serving over 16 seafood items. Eddie’s Smokin Shrimp Cocktail is an Eddie’s signature item, which is one of the company’s highest selling products. Eddie Merlot’s makes all of their desserts from scratch and is known to have the World’s Best Carrot Cake and desserts for two, such as Bananas Foster, which is flambéed tableside. The lounge has a menu featuring small plates and prime burgers. Eddie Merlot’s offers an extensive wine list (250-plus bottles) and also 50 wines by the glass. Each location offers popular, local craft beers and an Eddie Merlot’s Signature cocktail list.
The updated menu and new look represent the realization of Humphries’ original vision for a restaurant that blended elegant design, exquisite cuisine, and impeccable hospitality. Those values have grown the company to 13 locations in 9 states. This success comes from Eddie Merlot’s understanding of its audience. Even as gender roles become more equalized, women are still seen as the primary decision-makers in the household. Women make up 85 percent of consumer purchases, according to Greenfield Online for Arnold’s Women’s Insight Team, and Humphries says 65 percent of women make the decision where to eat. Eddie Merlot’s takes care to appeal directly to its female customers. With restaurants featuring 50 wines by the glass, robust dessert menus, more seafood options and smaller cuts of steak, and even custom seating designed to be more comfortable for women. The concept has proven flexible, able to evolve with its customers even as it core stays the same. Regardless of what new meats are added to the menu or how the dining room changes, Eddie Merlot’s will remain a place for professionals who want to be seen and foodie lovers who want to enjoy the work of the industries most talented chefs.
The restaurant group recently implemented a major back-of-the-house training program aimed at increasing consistency across locations and ensuring each dish meets the company’s highest quality standards. The training process is ongoing with a corporate management team evaluating each restaurant on a consistent basis and holding their staff accountable. Monthly reviews by corporate are supplemented by weekly self-assessments within each restaurant. Although the recent focus has been on the back-of-the-house, Eddie Merlot’s will debut a new front-of-the-house training program for servers, bartenders, servers assistants, food runners, and hosts. The 3.5-month-long program will be hospitality driven with a focus on the guests and maximizing sales volumes.
The final element of Eddie Merlot’s is the importance of superior hospitality; which means each guest is pampered! Eddie Merlot’s creates an atmosphere where guests relax and have fun and enjoy what they call an “Exceptional Experience.” The Exceptional Experience is what has earned Eddie Merlot’s Pittsburgh, PA and Burr Ridge, IL two of OpenTables’s Best Steakhouses in America.
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