Daniel Vap, founder of the HuHot Mongolian Grill franchise, died February 9 of congestive heart failure. He was 71 years old.
In 1999, Dan opened the first HuHot Mongolian Grill in Missoula, Montana, with his wife, Linda Vap, and son, Andy Vap. A short time later, the first franchisee opened a store in Omaha, Nebraska. Now HuHot is one of the countries leading all-you-can-create Asian stir-fry concepts with 52 locations across the U.S. To this day, Dan, and his family are still at the heart of the business.
Dan was known for his love of food and success in the restaurant industry. Prior to opening HuHot Dan and his wife owned and operated Godfather’s Pizza franchises in Montana. While on a family vacation Dan first experienced food cooked on a Mongolian grill and fell in love with the approach. Dan instantly saw a connection between pizza and Mongolian grills because both offered customers one primary menu item that they could customize.
The Vap’s took the location of the Godfather’s Pizza closest to their home in Missoula and converted it into the first HuHot, originally called Mongo’s. People loved it. The HuHot business model proved to be more successful than they imagined and the company grew quickly.
Even as the company grew, Dan took pride in being down-to-earth and approachable. HuHot employees remember Vap “as a loyal man that did everything he could to help the people around him succeed and grow. When he spoke, people listened. ” Dan was known for being a quiet man who knew when to chime in with advice or a sarcastic one liner.
Dan and his wife Linda’s four kids grew up working in the restaurants, two of which now work for HuHot: Andy Vap, as CEO and Molly Vap O’Shea, as VP of franchise development.