Thomason Hospitality Group
Q&A With Restaurateur Dave Thomason
Dave Thomason has an eye for food and beverage franchises. Be it a hamburger spot, coffee stop, or roadside eatery, Thomason has developed a knack for growing and fine-tuning food franchises. After starting with Carl’s Jr. more than three decades ago, Thomason Hospitality Group LLC now operates Elmer’s, Human Bean and Pita Pit franchises, along with Taprock Northwest Grill.
Originally from Southern California, Thomason and his wife Doneta moved to Grants Pass when their oldest child, Danae, was just three years old. Danae now acts as regional manager for the firm’s Pita Pits and Human Bean stores, and her husband holds a district manager position. Thomason considers his work force of over 500 people statewide to be key in the success of his business.
Grants Pass Magazine (GPM) had a chance to talk with Dave Thomason. Here’s what he had to say:
GPM: How long have you and your family lived in Grants Pass, and what brought you here?
Thomason: We moved to Grants Pass in 1985 from Anaheim, California. My wife, Doneta, and I both worked for Carl’s Jr. restaurants from the age of 16. After moving up in the company over the next 13 years, we became the first franchise owner in Oregon for Carl’s Jr. We opened our first location in early 1986 in Grants Pass. We opened a total of 10 Carl’s Jr. restaurants from northern California through southern Oregon. Over the years, we have owned and operated more than 60 restaurants throughout Oregon, including Carl’s Jr., Kenny Roger’s Roasters, Blimpie Subs, Purple Parrots, Elmer’s, Human Bean Coffee, Pita Pits and Taprock NW Grill. We currently have more than 500 employees at Thomason Hospitality Group.
GPM: What is your passion?
Thomason: Aside from my family being my number one passion, I have been a part of the restaurant business for 49 years. I continue to absolutely love what I do. My passion in the hospitality industry has driven me toward specific goals, no matter how unlikely or difficult they might be. It generates my enthusiasm that is needed to be able to plow through the biggest obstacles and overcome the most significant challenges that we have faced. I have also always had a passion to give back to the communities where we do business and to the industry that I am a part of. Over the years, I have been awarded the Community Person of the Year twice in Josephine County and the Restaurateur of the Year in the State of Oregon twice. I have also served as a Board member for the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association for more than 19 years, having served at the state president during that time.
GPM: When you’re relaxing at home, what is your favorite meal to prepare for your family?
Thomason: I wish I could tell you that I am a talented home chef, but that is not the case. While I do consider myself a Grillmaster when it comes to my outdoor kitchen, the best I can do besides BBQing, is my ability to create omelets! In my very early days, I was an excellent egg man at work.
GPM: We understand that business for you is a family affair; please tell us how the kids became involved in the business and how’s that going for everyone?
Thomason: Our three children have all worked for us in various brands and jobs over the years. Right now our oldest daughter, Danae, is our VP of Operations for our Human Beans and Donnie, our youngest is our Director of Marketing for Thomason Hospitality Group. I also have a son in law, Leo, who is our Director of Operations for Pita Pits. My son, David, Jr. has his own company, Burpile Design, that makes custom wood art and has customers all over the country.
GPM: What does the future look like for the Thomason Group moving forward?
Thomason: I am finally beginning to look toward what I want to do after I retire. While we do not look toward any significant expansion of our existing operations, we will be opening more Human Bean operations in the next couple of years along with some potential growth with our Elmer’s brand.