Greenwood and Johnson County and Restaurants and Retail and Real Estate & Retail and Small Business and Inside Dish

INSIDE DISH: Vegas-themed eatery eyes breaking even

July 16, 2010
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Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”

Our subject this week is Hal's Fabulous Vegas Bar & Grille, a casino-themed restaurant with an old-school vibe concocted by Hal and Carol Yeagy, the owners of the downtown blues institution Slippery Noodle Inn. Despite their experience building the Noodle into a national landmark, the Yeagys found themselves back at the bottom of the learning curve with their new eatery, which has lost more than $100,000 annually since opening in 2006.

"You know how you always have this great idea for retirement, that you're going to have this other job?" Hal Yeagy, 52, asked with an edge of irony in his voice. "That's kind of what this originally was meant to be to us."

It became a bigger burden than originally anticipated, but a labor of love nonetheless. The Yeagys cut no corners in the restaurant, inspired by their many vacations to Las Vegas. They spent about $1.2 million renovating and decorating an unused restaurant property in Greenwood, which cost an additional $800,000 to purchase. Design details included granite bar and table tops, custom-designed wool carpeting, about $120,000 in high-end light fixtures, and bar stools running $485 each from a manufacturer that supplies casinos.

Loans covered about $1.6 million of that initial $2 million investment. The Yeagys funded the rest, in part through their savings, credit cards and selling investments.

Although the Yeagys live nearby, they discovered they didn't have a firm grasp on the dining habits of southsiders. Some guests balked at the prices, expecting something more in line with a Texas Roadhouse, Hal said. Some turned up their noses at the policy of allowing smoking at and near the bar. Even the original dress code—no sleeveless shirts—had to be relaxed.

The Yeagys made adjustments over time. They instituted a no-smoking policy in late 2009 and began welcoming young adults to what had been a 21-and-over venue. They hired a new executive chef in October, leading to tweaks in the menu (although prices essentially remained the same).

Sales dipped about $50,000 from 2008 to 2009 (see "Notes from the Back of the Napkin," below), in part due to the ailing economy and increased competition from new Greenwood restaurants, Hal said. But the bottom line improved slightly, and has shown signs this year of approaching the break-even point.

"I look at things for the long haul," Hal said. "I think it takes a long time to build a lasting business."

In the video below, Yeagy discusses the origins of the restaurant, the surprises encountered after its opening, and its recent financial performance.


 

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Hal's Fabulous Vegas Bar & Grille
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1133 North State Road 135, Greenwood
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(317) 888-3427
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www.halsvegas.com
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Concept: Moderately priced steakhouse meant to evoke an old-style Las Vegas casino
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Founded: May 2006
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Owners: Hal and Carol Yeagy
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Employees: 15
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Start-up costs: $2 million ($800,000 for purchasing the land with an existing building; $1.2 million for renovating and decorating)
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Sales/profit: $630,000 with a $116,000 loss (2008); $581,000 with a $108,000 loss (2009).
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Seating: 148 (with an additional 40 seats in private rooms)
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Goals: To attract another 30 diners per week, which would allow the restaurant to operate at the break-even point. Future promotions will include an offering via the Groupon discount service.
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Good to know: Hal and Carol Yeagy also own Slippery Noodle Inn, downtown's landmark blues club.
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