Yard House General Manager Richard Sauceda was going on about how every employee at his new restaurant at University Town Center in Sarasota needs to love his or her job.
"I can teach anyone how to serve, or how to bartend," said Sauceda, who transferred from a similar post at a Yard House in McAllen, Texas. "I can't teach personality. When they have a great personality, we call them Yardies. You have to be a member of the team here. We are like family."
Sauceda, who was training staff March 29 in preparation for the restaurant's April 2 grand opening, then proved he is no exception to the rule.
His excitement was evident when talking about the restaurant's 110 beer taps. That excitement grew as he pointed to the thick beer lines that ran across the ceiling of the restaurant to the bar.
"Those each have 10 separate beer lines in them," he said, his face beaming.
He then led the way to the restaurant's beer cooler, a thick door separating the outside world from a vault containing hundreds of beer kegs.
As he walked through his arctic surroundings inside the vault, he was like a kid in a very cold candy store.
Sauceda arrived from Texas in December and he said every step of preparation for the new restaurant has been met with kindness from those who live in the area.
"The people here are amazing," he said. "They welcomed me and my family, and everything has been positive."
He drives about 10 minutes to his new job from his residence in Palm Aire, and he couldn't imagine a more beautiful area for both his family and the new restaurant.
With 20 years in the business, he expects this Yard House will be a tremendous hit.
"This restaurant has amazing visibility," he said. "They couldn't have selected a better location. And it has its own parking lot."
He said Yard House is a perfect complement to other restaurants in the area.
"We offer something most restaurants don't," he said. "Variety. There is something for everyone here. We have vegan, gluten free, prime burgers, tacos, wings, Ahi sashimi, pizza, food with an Asian flare."
In front of Sauceda was a 14-page menu listing the many food and drink options, along with a list of the beer options.
With such a huge amount of choices, the restaurant places an electronic tablet on the tables for those who want to do a little research before or after the waiter arrives. A few touches of the screen could help the customer match a beer to his or her personal taste or to a food choice.
Also on the menu was a Happy House list of reduced drink and food choices. That will be 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday along with a late night Happy Hour 10 p.m. to midnight Monday through Wednesday.
The restaurant will be staffed by 140 employees who have been in place for weeks. Sauceda said he had "a lot of talent come through the door" when they began staffing the restaurant and he said it is likely that workers in the industry might have bypassed other jobs as they waited for Yard House to open. He said it is a high-traffic area that promises to keep everyone busy.
This Yard House also will feature the chain's first outside beer garden, a 3,200-foot space that will offer 60 seats under a roof and another 100 in the sun. All the tables will feature big umbrellas and huge TV screens and cornhole will be available as well.
"This is Yard House's first beer garden," Sauceda said. "Hopefully it will be a template for future Yard Houses. This is a game changer."
Gary Gabel is a new restaurant manager for Yard House, and he will spend a few months in Sarasota helping the restaurant get through its growing pains.
"When I drove up, this restaurant blew me away," Gabel said. "At night, with the lights, this is gorgeous. It is one of the most beautiful Yard Houses I've ever seen."
Gabel also is the company's beer guru. Among the many offerings are 10 selections with the Yard House's own stamp on it. He said the house Honey Blonde is Yard House's most popular beer in its own lineup.
"It will be perfect for the patio on a sunny day," Gabel said.
Besides the 10 Yard House signature beers, the restaurant also will keep a steady stream of 20 or more regional beers on tap. The rest of the lineup will be regional favorites from around the U.S. and the world.
The restaurant will seat 400 people with another 40 seats available at the bar.
"We are known for people being able to socialize, our energy and our vibe," said Sauceda, who said classic rock often would be playing throughout the restaurant.
Yard House is a Darden Restaurants property that joins other familiar names in the region such as Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille and Seasons 52.
The first Yard House in 1996 in Long Beach, California, featured 250 draft beers and was billed as offering "the world's largest selection of draft beer."
While other restaurants might offer more draft beer than the Yard House's 110 taps in Sarasota, nobody has more fun picking out the offerings than his staff will.
"We will taste the beers," he said. "There is nothing not fun about it, although some IPAs are hard to handle."
Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.