Vital Stats: Steele Platt, 44, founder and CEO of Yard House Restaurants USA in Irvine, California
Company:Yard House and Tequila Jack's restaurants
2004 Projected Sales: $60 million
Night Shift: Platt took downtown Denver by storm when he opened his first restaurant, Kailua's (named after his hometown in Hawaii), at age 25. A few years later, Platt created a beer hall called The Boiler Room and then EFEX nightclub.
Surprise Ending: He packed up and moved to Southern California when EFEX, his most profitable venture, closed due to noise issues. A millionaire by age 26, Platt says, "It happened so fast. I lost everything when I was 31." Facing roadblocks in opening a new nightclub, Platt worked as a car salesman and bartender to make ends meet.
Back in Business: Steve Reynolds, Kailua's former liquor rep, partnered with Platt to create Yard House in 1996 (he has since retired). Providing the seed capital, Reynolds and two other people each invested $50,000, while Platt's 40 or so investors-family and friends-raised $800,000. The landlord of the Long Beach location provided more than $2 million in tenant allowance, after researching Platt's prior successes.
"I had something, lost everything, and came back and did the same thing, but better."
Yard Work: That first Yard House boasted 250 tap handles and 180 flavors served by the pint and in half and full yard glasses. Today, there are seven locations in Southern California and Colorado, with plans to expand to Illinois and Florida. "[Yard House] is three components: beer, rock 'n' roll and good food," says Platt. The Yard House's American Fusion cuisine has helped the restaurant rank third nationally in highest average unit sales. "[Restaurant] longevity is tied in with the food," Platt attests. "It's our number-one priority."