There are currently eight locations, and the founders of the restaurant chain are on the verge of franchising regionally, and ultimately across the country.
The concept behind Tap House Grill was born in 2005 between founders Robert Scott Ward and Mark Zych. Both men come from a strong background in restaurant management and operations, and were confident they could create a local gathering place that highlighted popular handcrafted and rare beers, along with a unique and creative menu.
“Our focus has been on providing quality in all of those areas since the very beginning, and we believed we would find success if we built it right,” Ward said.
And that they did.
Among their locations, the first opened in St. Charles in 2006 with a second in Oswego in 2009 and a third location in Westmont in 2010. The Plainfield Tap House Grill followed in 2011, which is when they first opened their corporate offices on Vermont Street in Palatine. The Lemont location opened its doors in 2012, and two years later, the Des Plaines restaurant was established. The downtown Palatine location at Wilson and Brockway streets opened later that year and the corporate headquarters have since been moved there.
For a number of the restaurants, including Palatine (the former Mia Cucina Italian restaurant site), the ‘second man in the grill’ strategy was utilized. Ward and Zych have searched out restaurants that had previously closed their doors, and taken over the location while using basic equipment which was already in place.
Although Tap House Grill has an identity of its own, elements of the former restaurants are many times incorporated into the new locations. The Palatine restaurant, for example, uses a brick oven that Mia Cucina used to cooked pizzas. Brick ovens will now be incorporated into all future locations, according to Ward.
In the fall of 2014, Ward and Zych entered into a franchise agreement and have been preparing to expand first in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, and then in other states across the country.
“Our goal was to grow our brand, but to first ensure it was sustainable; we now have reached that point,” Zych said.
Tap House Grill is identified as a ‘comfort gastro pub’ that serves up an eclectic menu with a southwestern flair. Some of the offerings include homemade pickles, cheese curds sourced from Wisconsin, a braised beef sandwich (featured in 2011 as one of the Chicago Tribune’s top 25 sandwiches), along with hot wings that won Best of the Fest at the Chicago Wing Fest in 2013. A full listing of menu items can be found here: http://taphousegrills.com/.
A strong emphasis also is placed on draft beer selections. All of the locations have up to 48 taps, 18 of which are standard at each. The remainder of the beer selections are dictated by local customer preferences, something Zych says has helped to set Tap House Grill apart from other restaurants competing for patrons.
Hiring engaging employees that provide exceptional customer service are the third ingredient that are attributed to the chain’s success.
“It’s the people that make it happen; we find great employees, train them and get out of their way. It’s their interactions with the customers that make the Tap House Grill experience a truly special one,” Zych said.
Attractions include a weekly Thursday Girl’s Night Out at all locations, and other weekly specials, in addition to a Craft Beer and Bacon Fest in the fall. Televised sports are also a major focus, where multiple televisions allow customers to enjoy Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and other sporting events.
“We have worked hard and sacrificed over the years to get Tap House Grill to where it is today, and we are very excited for the future,” Ward said.
Private party space is also available. For more information, visit the website at http://taphousegrills.com/.