Family business owners use IHOP franchise experience to launch new taphouse

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(Courtesy of newrivertaphouse.com)

(Courtesy of newrivertaphouse.com)

New River Taphouse opened July 11 in Virginia Beach, but the family behind it has owned restaurants in Hampton Roads for more than two decades.

The Reas family has owned two IHOP locations in Hampton Roads for years, one of them since 1999 . The 5,000 square-foot New River Taphouse – featuring 20 brews, burgers, seafood and chicken – is the first time they’ve strayed from speedy breakfasts and hot coffee.

“We always wanted to do an independent restaurant,” Jon Reas, who owns the Taphouse with his mother, Donna Reas, his wife, Maria, and his brother, Lance. “We saw a lot of breweries opening up in the Tidewater area – we just wanted to be a part of it.”

The Taphouse, located at 1716 Pleasure House Rd., offers appetizers such as crab dip, pickle chips and chicken wings. Entrees include chicken salad, filet mignon with mushroom sauce and oven-roasted pizza. The menu also features 20 beers on tap, including brews from locals such as Commonwealth Brewing Co., Pleasure House Brewing and Reaver Beach Brewing Co.

Entree prices range from $6 to $22 at the restaurant, which employs 45 people. The Reases own an IHOP on Main Street in Suffolk, which they’ve owned since 1999. They also own one on City Center Boulevard in Elizabeth City, which they’ve owned for about eight years.

Jon and Lance’s deceased father, Harold Reas, first purchased an IHOP in Virginia Beach in the 1980s. The restaurant was family-owned until the lease ran out in 2014. A few years later, the Reases built an IHOP in Suffolk, at 1210 N. Main St.

Jon Reas said he learned a lot from managing IHOPs for many years, and applied the structure and consistency he learned there to Taphouse. Maria Reas, the manager of Taphouse, had to create a training program for employees from scratch – something she’s never done before.

“I had to create a whole training process myself  just from my knowledge of what I did at IHOP,” she said.

One big difference Jon Reas noticed between the franchises and the grill is atmosphere. IHOP is more fast-paced, and employees spend less time with customers, he said. Jon’s learning curve was beer knowledge, he said, including how to pair food and popular beer styles.

Maria Reas said Harold Reas, who died about 10 years ago, would be proud of the family’s new restaurant. Lance Reas agrees his father would be happy to see the grill open.

“If he was here, he would be very proud,” Lance Reas said. “So it’s just nice to be able to look up and think about him.”

In the future, Jon and Lance said they hope to open another restaurant, with even more brews. But first, they’d like to focus on New River Taphouse.

“If we could it, it would fun to do another restaurant,” Lance Rease said. “Only time will tell.”

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Family business owners use IHOP franchise experience to launch new taphouse