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Proud To Be A WLRA Member: James Yates

The Wyoming legend of Steamboat began in 1894, in the wild western terrain of Wyoming. Every bit as strong and proud as the cowboys who tried to ride him, Steamboat was one of the best-known bucking broncos of all time, and embodies the values upon which Wyoming was built: toughness, and a “never say die” attitude.

These same attitudes hold true for the way many in Wyoming live today, and it is out of that same great stock that Steamboat’s Wyoming Steak & Smokehouse was born. The brainchild of established restaurateur James Yates after his success with his popular Sanford’s Grub & Pub restaurants, Yates recently shared this latest story with the WLRA.

“It was six years ago that I decided to open a Wyoming-themed steak and smokehouse,” Yates explains. “I wanted every one that comes in to feel like they own a part of it.”

The effort to create a comfortable atmosphere is apparent immediately on walking through the doors; comfortable lighting, raw stone and wood textures and, of course, the delicious aroma of the excellent fare coming from the kitchen.

Front and center, however, is the image of Steamboat – an image that Yates is incredibly proud to have associated with his latest undertaking.

“Funny enough, I got the idea (for a Wyoming-themed restaurant) while I was shopping,” Yates said. “Everyone at the store had a sweatshirt, hat, window sticker or something showing their pride for our great state and university.”

Like any entrepreneur with 20 years of self-employed experience, Yates began doing his homework.

“I called the University of Wyoming and asked what the number one revenue generator for the state of Wyoming was,” he recalls, “and they obviously said minerals so I asked what was second? And they answered ‘tourism.’ And I thought ‘so why don’t we have a restaurant that is truly Wyoming-themed?’”

Several phone calls to the University later, Yates had the approval to utilize the Steamboat logo and it was time to get moving. It wasn’t difficult for James to find a group of local Wyoming investors who were excited to get involved. They too could see that this restaurant was exactly what Cheyenne needed.

True to its Wyoming theme, Yates is proud to serve up a nice juicy steak a true Wyoming cowboy can really sink their teeth into. “We age and hand-cut all of our steaks right here, in-house,” Yates says excitedly. “And even though we can’t buy Wyoming beef directly, we make sure our suppliers do. It’s about taking care of each other.”

It’s this “take care of each other” attitude that influenced Yates’ decision to join the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association. “At first, it was a lot of Lynn (Birleffi) bugging me,” Yates recalled with a warm laugh. But when he took a hard look at everything the association is doing for the industry, joining the WLRA was a simple business decision.

Yates also lauds the WLRA’s cost-saving benefits, especially with a recent purchase of an often-costly necessity. “I had forgotten the WLRA offered discounts on POS systems, but when the association heard I was looking to expand, they helped me get a great price on a new system.”

“Being a member of the WLRA is like having insurance,” Yates says. “I know the WLRA is out there every single day, no matter what, and that means I can focus on my business because there are people out there – people a lot smarter than me – doing this for me.”

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