The original Capital Grille was founded by Ned Grace, in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1990. The opening was curious for several reasons: the upscale steakhouse contrasted with the then-rundown downtown area of Providence, and the opening occurred amidst an ongoing recession. Grace envisioned the restaurant being popular with business and political elite, and proved to be accurate. Seven years after opening, the original location pulled in over $4 million in annual sales.
Under the leadership of Grace's Bugaboo Creek Steak House Inc. (the name of Grace's other chain), the chain expanded to several major markets. By 1996, The Capital Grille had locations in Washington, D.C. and Boston. In 1997, aided by a $20 million credit line from two banks, it expanded with four more locations. Bugaboo Creek Steak House Inc. went public in 1994, and later changed its name to RARE Hospitality International, Inc. According to The Washington Business Journal, the chain was acquired by Darden Restaurants as a 'part of a $1.19 billion acquisition of RARE Hospitality in 2007'.
The Capital Grille operates under the Specialty Restaurant Group division of Darden.As of May 2014 there were 51 locations.In 2012, employees in five states filed lawsuits against the company alleging racial discrimination and wage violations. The lawsuit alleges that the company favored white workers over people of color for lucrative tipped jobs as well as requiring tipped workers to share their earnings with non-tipped workers.In 2013, the Capital Grille in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was open for Thanksgiving for the first time in its history. Capital Grille employees at the Pittsburgh location and members of the Restaurant Opportunities Center protested having to work on Thanksgiving without receiving holiday pay. In addition, Pittsburgh City Council passed a Will of Council opposing Capital Grille's decision to force employees to work on Thanksgiving without holiday pay.