The Y.O. brand has an over one-hundred twenty year Y.O. brand (which has been written about in 3 different books), and our servers and staff often get asked about it from conscientious and inquisitive patrons. So as to familiarize our staff with such a deeply-rooted history, we closed the Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse Sunday and Monday of last week (July 22 & 23) in an opportunity to do some team-building with an employee retreat to the ranch.
Early Sunday we chartered a 57 passenger bus and headed 7 hours southwest to the Y.O. Ranch, which is located 40 miles west of Kerrville. On the way down, about 50 miles from Fredericksburg, we stopped for a break and bought fresh blackberries and peaches from the orchards right on the side of the highway. We reached to Ranch at around 5pm in the evening, and our 42 employees (and families) quickly found their bunkhouses to unpack. A few of the lodging facilities are actually Texas landmarks, one of which was formerly a school in the 1880s. The Y.O. Ranch is truly a piece of Texas history.
From the lodging most people went straight to beat the heat in the swimming pool, which is built into a bluff high above the wildlife pasture and overlooks the whole area. It’s definitely a Texas-sized pool, but also boasts a large hot tub, and a children’s swim/play area. Most everyone else congregated in The Lodge — the hub of ranch nightlife, with billiards, a big screen TV, and a bar — to drink cocktails, play poker, or shoot pool. We spent a good deal of our time at The Lodge both days we visited.
We took all our meals at The Chuckwagon, which is home of Hill Country cooking. Monday morning we were served a huge country breakfast, but much earlier than the restaurant’s usual breakfast time; we had a big day of activities planned. Immediately after breakfast we went on the Safari Tour, to see all the various wild game the Y.O. has to offer. Charles Schreiner III started his exotic wildlife conservation program in the 1960’s when the San Antonio zoo’s director Fred Stark needed help with the zoo’s exotic wildlife program.
There are 55 species of animals from at least 4 different continents to see on the Safari Tour, so it lasted about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. While most of the animals are raised for conservation purposes, some of these animals are available to hunt at a cost for private parties. This was where the real familiarization with the ranch took place for our staff. Lunch was served at The Chuckwagon right after the tour.
After lunch we went horseback riding. The ranch is a good 40,000 acres, so there’s plenty to see, but they offer rides of one-hour long, all-day, and sunrise or sunset rides. Our group was large, and we had seen much of the ranch on the Safari Tour, so we only rode horseback that afternoon for over an hour. Afterwards, we were either at the pool’s swim-up bar, or over in The Lodge hanging out.
Monday evening Y.O. Steakhouse’s chef/proprietor, Tony Street, single-handedly cooked for all of our 42 employees and family members on retreat, as well as the 20 people on the ranch staff. The meal consisted of chateaubriand (roasted tenderloin), leg of lamb, and a dessert of fresh blackberry and/or fresh peach cobbler–picked from the orchards we visited on our drive down.
Two days may not have been enough to fully familiarize everyone with the ranch and its history, but it made for a fantastic getaway. When we roll out our exotic game menu this fall, our servers will no doubt be all the more knowledgeable and eager to talk to our patrons about our offerings. If you find yourself needing a similar getaway, there are plenty of packages explained and offered at the Y.O. Ranch website. From summer Adventure Camps for the kids, to Hunting Specials, and even Corporate Retreats for your own company, you’ll definitely get a sense of Texas history from the Y.O.