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Houlihan's is a Leawood, Kansas-based American casual restaurant & bar with locations operating throughout the country, 60% of which are franchised. The first Houlihan's opened on April 1, 1972 in Kansas City's Country Club Plaza, and there are now 84 restaurants in 18 states. It was originally named Houlihan's Old Place, because it was first located in the space of Houlihans Clothing Store.Houlihan's is privately owned by Houlihan's Restaurants, Inc., a company that developed and owns several restaurant concepts including Bristol Seafood Grill, Devon Seafood Grill and J. Gilbert's Wood-Fired Steaks.
Paul Robinson met Joe Gilbert in 1961. At that time Robinson was manager of the Golden Ox restaurant in Kansas City's West Bottoms (and creator of Inn at the Landing, which opened in 1960 at the Landing shopping center at 63rd and Troost) and Gilbert was the creator of the Four Winds restaurant at the Kansas City downtown airport. The two men formed the Gilbert-Robinson restaurant firm, and they opened a number of successful restaurants including Plaza III Steakhouse at the Country Club Plaza in 1963 and Gilbert & Robinson's (later renamed Sam Wilson's) on 103rd street in Overland Park. Several years later, Gilbert-Robinson looked into expanding Plaza III into space being vacated next door by men's clothing store Tom Houlihan's. Instead of expanding Plaza III, the restaurant partners decided to create a new casual restaurant. During construction, they couldn't come up with a name for the new restaurant, and people kept referring to it as Tom Houlihan's place. As a result, they decided to call the new restaurant Houlihan's Old Place. Gilbert-Robinson gained Tom Houlihan's permission to use the name, and they told him that a table would be reserved for no one else but him in the middle of the dining room every day for the rest of his life. The table included a brass plaque with Tom's name on it; however, Tom Houlihan never set foot in the restaurant. Houlihan's Old Place opened on April 1, 1972.
In November 2002, Houlihan's announced that its original location at Kansas City's Country Club Plaza would close by the end of the year. The closing was announced because the landlord, Highwoods Realty LP, chose not to renew the lease. Highwoods Realty is a unit of Highwoods Properties Inc. of Raleigh, North Carolina, which owns most of the retail real estate in the heart of the Country Club Plaza. A spokesperson for Highwoods released a statement indicating that "the time was right to bring a new concept into our restaurant mix here on the Plaza." Houlihan's announced that it would relocate its Plaza location to vacant space on 53rd Street in nearby Fairway, Kansas in January 2003. At the time of the move, Houlihan's Restaurants, Inc. owned 48 restaurants in 15 states, including 34 of its Houlihan's branded restaurants.
Since January 2006, private equity firm Goldner Hawn Johnson Morrison has maintained a majority ownership stake in Houlihan's Restaurants, Inc. In May 2006, Houlihan's debuted its new "Houlihan's of the 21st Century" prototype design. The new restaurant designs featured new architecture, interior design, uniforms, music, menu format, patio-style dining, and a redesign to its spacious bar area. Houlihan's also announced a new strategic growth plan to open more corporate locations and limit franchise deals to highly experienced, "cream of the crop" market developers. In 2007, 92 Houlihan's restaurants operated throughout the United States. 31 restaurants were corporate owned and 61 were franchised. By 2012, Houlihan’s Restaurants, Inc. still owned 31 Houlihan's restaurants; however, franchised locations fell to 48 Houlihan's restaurants.
Menu offerings range from wood grilled center-cut steaks to flatbread pizzas, and include both contemporary American and ethnic-inspired fare. The Houlihan's test kitchen is located in the headquarters office. Houlihan's kitchens are run from scratch.
In the bar, cocktails and wine along with small bites have landed many local 'Best of' happy hour awards.