For customers in the Puget Sound or Midwest who are starved for great food, beer and atmosphere, chances are the letters “R,” “A,” and “M” will beckon to their calling.
The RAM Restaurant and Brewery has more than 30 locations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Illinois and Indiana. Soon, the folks in Ohio will get a RAM of their own.
The restaurant has grown into a semi-national brand on the strength of its award-winning beer, great cuisine and 2,000-plus team members/owners who take pride in serving guests.
But for those of us in Lakewood, there’s another sense of pride - one that comes with knowing no matter how popular the RAM ultimately becomes, it all began here in our community.
“The whole thing started in Lakewood,” said Mark Patterson, who started out as a server at the Lakewood location in 1989 and today is a Regional Leader for the company. “It’s our home.”
To be more specific, the RAM Pub opened on Feb. 26, 1971 at the former Villa Plaza. The original founders of the restaurant decided to become entrepreneurs after learning the craft while working at the former Shakey’s Pizza. The founders included Jeff Iverson Sr. His sons - Jeff and Dave - sit at the helm of the RAM today, although don’t call them CEO’s. Fancy job titles aren’t big at the RAM.
Back then, it had more of a “deluxe-tavern” feel, which is a far cry from the family atmosphere it offers today. Customers went mostly for the beer and wine, and the tavern offered a cook-your-own-burgers-and-steaks menu.
Throughout the 1970’s, the deluxe-tavern model gradually evolved into the casual, family atmosphere the RAM enjoys today. It opened C.I. Shenanigans in 1980 on the Tacoma waterfront. On the RAM menu today: steaks, seafood, salads, burgers and more.
Over the years, the RAM began opening locations up and down the Puget Sound. Then it was in Oregon and Idaho. Then in locales father east.
In 1995, the RAM opened its first in-house brewery at its Salem, Ore., location. It quickly found that customers loved the unique, high-quality brews:
- Washington Blonde Ale
- Amber Ale
- Total Disorder Porter
- 71 Pale Ale
- Big Red IPA
Today, these beers serve as the foundation of its beer selection, although the RAM releases several popular seasonal offerings. There’s Maibock in the spring, Oktoberfest in the fall and Sno Angel Weizenbock in the winter. Recently, to celebrate the 115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course, the RAM released a special small batch season beer called Lone Tree Kolsch. It pays tribute to the course’s iconic Lone Fir.
A year after it began brewing its beer, the RAM’s Total Disorder Porter won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival. Since 2000, at least one of its hand-crafted beers has placed at the national beer festival. Most recently, the RAM’s White Eagle Wheat won in 2014.
The RAM has also won awards from the North American Brewers Association and at the World Beer Cup, the Colorado State Fair, Indiana Brewers Cup and the Craft Lager Festival. “It’s easy to brag our beer,” Patterson says. “What’s ironic is I wasn’t a beer drinker. Now, I love our beer.”
He says no matter how many beer awards it wins or how much it adds to its menu, the true strength of the RAM is its commitment to helping and empowering people, both internally and externally. “We’re a people development company.”
In an industry that experiences plenty of turnover, it’s not uncommon to find RAM employees who have been with the company for five, 10, 15, even 20 years.
At the end of 2014, employees received an early Christmas gift when owners gave them 30 percent of the company, meaning the RAM is partially team member-owned.
“It was purely a gift,” Patterson said, “but it’s a super-cool thing to know that every team member here owns 30 percent of the company.”
The RAM also contributes to countless groups and organizations in the communities it serves. The elementary school takeovers it regularly hosts have raised enough money to purchase swing-set play areas , computers, books and other school supplies. It has contributed to local youth sports in Lakewood, including the Lakewood Baseball Cub, Lancer Youth Football Program and Lakewood Soccer Club. It’s even an official sponsor of the U.S. Curling Team. (It’s true. In the next Winter Olympics, look at the logo on the right side of their curlers’ shirts)
Following demolition of the Villa Plaza in the late 1980’s, the RAM opened a new restaurant, as well as its home offices, to its current location at Lakewood Towne Center.
Despite a 2014 fire that damaged its home offices, the company has no plans to relocate anywhere but in Lakewood. Its owners live here. Patterson lives here. Many of its team members live or have worked here.
“I just think it’s our roots,” Patterson said. “It’s like anything. You kind of want to be close to home. It’s comfortable. It’s us.”
For its exponential success and commitment to our community, the City of Lakewood is proud to recognize The RAM Restaurant and Brewery as its July Business Showcase.