Eddie Merlot’s, the steakhouse known for hand-cut prime-aged beef, seafood, and an extensive collection of wines, recently celebrated its landmark 10th restaurant opening in Pittsburgh on April 22. The Indiana-based restaurant group, helmed by founder and President Bill Humphries, announces plans for future expansion, including its 11th unit currently under construction in Englewood, Colorado, and three additional locations to be announced later this year.
Following the brand’s recent growth and development, Eddie Merlot’s 2014 sales are expected to be well above $50 million.
The Spirit of Hospitality
Eddie Merlot’s story begins with Humphries, a 32-year veteran of the restaurant industry, who has worked in the quick-serve, fast casual, casual-dining, and fine-dining segments. He began his hospitality career as a development agent for Subway sandwiches, a role that led him to open the company’s first Indiana outpost. Humphries parlayed his first initial success into a restaurant portfolio that boasts more than 750 franchised units in Indiana and Ohio. After serving on a number of advisory boards for Subway, the seed of Eddie Merlot’s started to take root.
At one board dinner, Ed, a new board member, asked Humphries to surprise him with a great wine. When the wine—a Merlot—was poured and tasted, Ed was exceedingly impressed and told Humphries, “From now on, I will always order this Merlot,” to which Humphries replied, “And from now on, you’re Eddie Merlot.”
Humphries set out to create a concept that celebrated what he calls “the heart of hospitality,” meaning personalized service and a commitment to the highest quality, freshest ingredients in a comfortable atmosphere. When Humphries opened the restaurant’s first location in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 2001, he named the concept Eddie Merlot’s, a fitting homage to his friend Ed, a man known for his love of a great steak, a great glass of wine, and a good story.
Creating a Distinctly Different Dining Experience
When creating the restaurant, Humphries targeted three demographics: Baby Boomers with income in excess of $125,000; Women and women entertainment decision-makers with an income of more than $100,000; and the 30-something market with an income exceeding $100,000. Each Eddie Merlot’s location gains success from the restaurant team working together to make every effort to anticipate and exceed guest expectations.
“The company has great sales and great openings, but our continued growth can be attributed to our management team and staff at each of our locations,” Humphries says. “Our teams enable our growth for the future. I try to instill in our managers the motto of 'Each and every day, listen, teach, praise, and coach.'”
To further enhance the guest experience, Eddie Merlot’s prides itself on offering an unparalleled culinary experience. Its well-trained culinary team utilizes high-quality ingredients for the menu, including USDA beef that is hand-cut in-house. As an extension of the regular menu, Eddie Merlot’s offers five promotional periods throughout the year with specialty menu items that allow guests another option for culinary indulgence.
Eddie Merlot’s also prides itself on a wine list that offers more than 75 wines by the glass and more than 250 reserve list selections, which are housed in custom-built wine rooms.
“When guests visit Eddie Merlot’s, they get a since of what distinctly different means. Our restaurants do not resemble the typical steakhouse. We strive to create a comfortable, warm environment for our guests.” Humphries works with his restaurant design team to create a welcoming atmosphere through the use of signature décor elements such as the glow of the custom lighting, two-toned woods, custom artwork that incorporates elements of stained glass, and colorful mosaics.
“If we take care of everything within our four walls, we will be successful in the market,” Humphries says. “Because we’ve invested in our team, they deliver a high-quality food and hospitality experience that builds loyalty with our guests.”