Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

2017 RH 25: Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

With the debut of R.J. Grunts in 1971, Richard Melman launched what has become a multiconcept restaurant empire

This year, Restaurant Hospitality collected the 25 most powerful multiconcept operators across the country, or what we call the RH 25. With this list, there is no ranking. All 25 are powerful, and all 25 are companies to watch. See all concepts >>

Headquarters: Chicago

Leadership: Richard Melman, founder

Kevin Brown, president and CEO 

Next generation: RJ Melman, Jerrod Melman and Molly Melman — Richard Melman’s children — oversee a division of 13 restaurants and nightclubs within the group.

Group systemwide sales: $580 million in fiscal 2016

Concepts: More than 120 restaurants and more than 60 concepts in 13 states, including the original R.J. Grunts, RPM Steak and RPM Italian, and the newer Beatrix

What’s new: Open in 2017 is a third location of Beatrix, Lucky Dumpling, ASAP Poke, Stratford on the Park and Seaside’s 

Chicagoland restaurant empire looks to the future 

With the debut of R.J. Grunts in 1971, Richard Melman launched what has become a multiconcept restaurant empire with brands as diverse as the fine-dining, art-filled concept Tru to the noodle den Ramen-san.

With the next generation of Melmans stepping up, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, or LEYE, is executing forward-thinking ideas. 

This year, LEYE opened three digital-only concepts, with food available for pick-up or delivery, but no dine-in service. Food is prepared in the group’s other restaurant kitchens. 

Lucky Dumpling serves dishes like crab Rangoon dumplings, salt-and-pepper shrimp, duck pot stickers and cashew chicken. ASAP Poke offers poke bowls and sushi rolls, and Seaside’s features fried chicken, slow cooked ribs and grilled lobster. 

But the group’s dine-in brands are still growing. 

The all-day neighborhood restaurant and coffeehouse Beatrix opened a third location this year. The concept has broad appeal as a casual gathering spot, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner; cocktails; and specialty coffee drinks. 

Tucked inside two locations is Beatrix Market, with grab-and-go and self-serve food options, along with artisan chocolates. A standalone Beatrix Market is also coming soon to Chicago’s Loop. 

LEYE has enjoyed a steady stream of accolades over the years. Earlier this year, Crain’s Chicago Business dubbed Richard Melman “the Meryl Streep of hospitality.” 

But the patriarch said: “I don’t want to be the biggest. I don’t want to be the richest. I don’t want to be the most well known. I just want to be good at what I do. It keeps my life in balance. If you have all you need, what more could you want?”

Richard Melman has only recently discussed cutting back his schedule to five days a week. Future transitions are clearly on his mind. But LEYE appears ready to evolve with the changing tastes of today’s consumer.

Next: Jean-Georges Management

Previous: Momofuku Group

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