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INSIDE DISH: Noodle readies for Super Bowl rush

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Inside Dish

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

Our subject this week is Slippery Noodle Inn, the downtown brews-and-blues landmark that’s a just a punt’s distance from Lucas Oil Stadium and the epicenter of Super Bowl XLVI. Owner Hal Yeagy, who has captained the Inn through every major downtown sporting event since 1984, is busy readying for what promises to be “probably the biggest event we’ll ever have in the city, and won’t be exceeded unless we get the Olympics.”



“I can hardly fathom it; it’s scary to think about,” said Yeagy, who has been told by multiple sources to expect three to six months worth of business over the 10 days leading up to the big game on Feb. 5. For the Noodle, that would mean $700,000 to $1.4 million in gross sales.

“It’s a good time to spiff the place up,” Yeagy said of the Noodle, which sits in a brick structure at Meridian and South streets dating back to 1850. “You want the entire city to make a good impression on everybody, and I want ourselves to make a good impression.”

To that end, Yeagy is spending nearly $300,000 to refurbish and update portions of the club, and create and operate a temporary tent-like annex in its parking lot with a capacity for 1,365 people in 10,000 square feet.

For the last several months, crews have been renovating the larger of the Noodle’s two in-house music rooms, including expanding the stage, and changing out carpeting and sound insulation. Two new rooftop heating and AC units for the room were installed, with a third slated for the Noodle’s dining atrium next week. The two exterior business signs have been repainted, as well as the front barroom. Total cost: about $150,000.

Renting and running the outdoor structure, and adding flooring and staging equipment for music acts (including blues legend Buddy Guy, confirmed for Feb. 4), will run about $100,000, Yeagy said. Construction will begin on Jan. 23, with its opening scheduled for Friday, Jan. 27. Heating the space for 10 days could run as high as $19,000.

With the outdoor annex, total capacity for the Noodle will triple to almost 2,000 people. Correspondingly, staffing will balloon as well. On a typical weekend evening, the Noodle uses about 30 employees. During the weekend of the Super Bowl, Yeagy expects to have as many as 90 people at once tending bar, making food, serving customers and minding the door.

Because the Noodle’s payroll is currently about 60, Yeagy has invited employees of Greenwood sister restaurant Hal’s Fabulous Las Vegas Bar & Grille to take on shifts, as well as friends and former employees. For the last several months, an ex-manager who now lives in California has been working on contract at the Noodle to help prepare for the big event.

In some ways, however, the Noodle is shrinking for the Super Bowl. Yeagy plans to simplify its offerings for ease of preparation and delivery. For example, the Noodle’s 125-item menu will contract to about 60. The number of brands and varieties of vodka will slip from 60 to 10. Still, Yeagy expects daily deliveries from food and drink distributors, and possibly hourly as the event nears.

“During the Final Four in 2010, we had nine beer deliveries on that Saturday,” he said.

Yeagy acknowledges that his food and drink prices will rise about 30 percent during the festivities, and that the cover price on some evenings nearing the game will approach $100. In light of other high-profile Super Bowl events with eye-popping entrance fees, Yeagy believes his prices will be reasonable.

“You’ve got parties that are $1,500 to get into, if you can get a ticket,” he said. “The Super Bowl is corporate America at its best.”

In contrast to Final Four crowds, typically populated by average-Joe, college-sports fans spending their own money, Yeagy expects many Super Bowl visitors to rely on corporate entertainment accounts. “We’re going to have American Express out the ying-yang,” he said.

Business from the Super Bowl could “make our year, and maybe even our decade,” Yeagy said with a grin. But the future for the Noodle, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013, looks increasingly bright with or without the 150,000 visitors expected in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl.

Gross sales dipped from $3 million in 2007 to $2.7 million as the recession hit the following year. Now they’re on the rebound, totaling about $2.85 million for 2011, Yeagy said. Net income for the year has not been calculated yet, but he expects a profit.

Over the next several months, the Noodle will gain more than 2,000 new neighbors with pocket money to spend. By mid-summer, Rolls-Royce North America plans to move a total of 2,500 employees into an office campus directly across South Street.

When Eli Lilly and Co. employees vacated the campus in 2010, daily lunch sales at the Noodle dropped about 40 percent, from an average of $3,000 to $1,800, Yeagy said.

The office complex “sat there empty for two years," he said, "and that’s why we’re so excited to have Rolls-Royce move into it."

Rolls-Royce and its workers’ purchasing power also have inspired a major policy change at the Noodle. A longtime opponent of proposed city smoking bans, Yeagy decided late in 2011 to toss out the ashtrays and make the whole premises smoke-free beginning Jan. 2.

Rolls-Royce employees and executives who started populating the campus in December dropped hints to Yeagy that they’d appreciate a smoke-free environment.

“There were subtle hints that we’d see a lot more of them if we were smoke-free,” Yeagy said. “Since it’ll be 2,500 people a couple hundred feet away, it’s a good thing to listen to them.

“It was a business decision. I was never against a smoking ban, per se. What I’m against is the government telling me that I have to have a smoking ban. I wanted it to be a business decision.”

In the video at top, Yeagy discusses preparations for the Super Bowl crowds. In the video below, he recounts the storied history of the Slippery Noodle and weighs in on his decision to go smoke-free, as well as current challenges to the bottom line.



 

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Slippery Noodle Inn
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372 S. Meridian St.
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(317) 631-6974
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www.slipperynoodle.com
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Concept: Landmark tavern and blues club owned by the Yeagy family since 1963.
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Founded: 1963, when property owner Emelia Finehout sold the struggling tavern on the northwest corner of Meridian and South streets to husband-and-wife Harold and Lorean Yeagy. They renamed the barroom "Slippery Noodle Inn" and ran the business as a one-room lunch counter that closed in the evenings. Businesses on the corner of the historic structure have been traced back to 1850, starting with the Tremont House. For more history, check the Inn's website.
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Current owners: Husband and wife Hal and Carol Yeagy
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Initial investment: Harold and Lorean Yeagy bought the tavern business for $5,500 on Dec. 13, 1963. Two years later, they bought the corner property and a neighboring property along South Street for $45,000.
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Gross sales: $2.7 million (2010); $2.85 million (2011)
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Employees: About 60
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Seating: About 500
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Goals: Preparing to transition upper management to Hal Yeagy's two sons; scheduling a 50th anniversary party for 2013.
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Good to know: Rolls-Royce North America plans to move 2,500 office workers to a complex across South Street from the Noodle, which Yeagy hopes will boost lunch and after-work sales.
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  • Gouging
    I always thought the Noodle represented the common working man, now I see that isn't the case. $100 cover charge? Come on, you can be above the fray.
  • Not price gouging
    Sorry Bassinator, but get over it. This event is not be to compared with anything that has been in Indy in the past. The crowds will be much bigger, the money spent will be much greater. Every bar/club/restaurant downtown will be charging more than normal, cover charges, table minimums, etc. Just like every parking lot will be charging crazy prices, just like every hotel has been booked solid for 2 years. There will be plenty of stuff to do downtown for everyone, but for a couple of weeks, don't look at it as the same ol' Indy. In Dallas last year, I paid $150/head to get into a regular sports bar and that included nothing else. Any nightclub I tried to go to was closed for a private party. So instead of complaining about an expensive cover charge for the biggest week EVER, be a little happy that one of your favorite bars is staying open to the public.
  • Wrong-o!
    Steve you're wrong if you don't think they'll be tons of 'Joe the football fans' without SB tickets who descend on downtown. NY and Boston fans will come in droves just to hang out. You've obviously never been to a host city during an SB. Sorry if I don't shed a tear for Hal and the other price gougers downtown.
  • Cover too High? No!
    @ bassinator Even if Hal were to have zero cover, it would be a slim chance for you or I to get in. The crowd will be enormous. This is a once in a lifetime event and I don't blame any business owner for making the most they can, especially considering the down times we've had for the last couple of years. During the Super Bowl, none of the downtown establishments will be catering to the locals per se. This isn't a party for us, it's an opportunity for downtown to be an improved downtown once it is all over. We then can have the remaining 355 days to ourselves. Also, there are very few "Joe the football fans" going to the game. Yes, we locals have been kind of get left out, but I can live with it.
  • $100 Cover
    Not buying it Hal. Final Four 2010 you had a big tent with bands including Jet. Where was your $100 cover then?
  • Slippery Noodel
    No,that is not a typo,spelling error in the comment--it is from curiousity about when the long-ago Slippery Noodel, nestled anonymously beside a military surplus store, had a small amused local "following" which included moi, the late civic leader Carl Dortch and assorted VIP's who would be "introduced" to the SN by this group. One of the beloved features was the surprise newcomers registered when they learned the owner-waiter serving them was "doing it by braille" (due to sight impairment.) But the fun was the big sign out in front "Slippery Noodel." So inquiring minds want to know, when did some busy-body pedantic get it spelled correctly? (But somehow not as quaint as the original) And do we know why,when,how the name originated? Maybe a great feature for wordsmith Cory S. or Mason K after the Super Bore when ink gets more plentiful?
  • Cover Charge
    It is not a $100 cover to make a lot of money - it is a $100 cover to help cover cost. The Tent/Stage/PA/Heat are well over $100,000. before we pay a single band. Bringing in top-notch entertainment like Buddy Guy is not cheap. It is also unique that you can see somebody of that stature in a small area.
  • Simple
    Get ready? Open doors, serve patrons, sell product, close doors at closing time. That takes preparation?
  • Stop the PRICE GOUGING!
    $100 cover!!?? Why does everybody downtown assume that everyone coming in is on a corporate expense account? Miami and New Orleans doesn't GOUGE their SB guests. You want to make a good impression for the city Hal? Don't take advantage of Joe the football fan. Charge a fair cover. Where are all the regular guys going to get a beer downtown that weekend?
    • good for you
      Good for you for making your own decision to go smoke free.
      Now to the legislature this is how capitalism works, it is free capitalism for business' to make their own determination.

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