About Us

LCG's unique consulting approach involves selecting a customized team of talent suitable for the specific project. We approach the client's goals the same way we approach issues in our own restaurants.

Consulting Staff

Rich Melman

Richard Melman is Founder and Chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a Chicago-based corporation that owns over 80 restaurants nationwide. The restaurant business has been Melman's life work, beginning with his early days in a family owned restaurant, and later as a teenager working in fast food eateries, at a soda fountain, and selling restaurant supplies.

After realizing that he wasn't cut out to be a college student, and failing to convince his father that he should be made a partner in the family business, Melman met Jerry A. Orzoff, a man who immediately and unconditionally believed in Melman's ability to create and run restaurants. In 1971 the two opened R.J. Grunts, a hip burger joint that soon became one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago. Here Melman and Orzoff presented food differently and with a sense of humor, creating the youthful and fun restaurant which was a forerunner in the trend towards dining out as entertainment that swept this country in the early '70's. Melman and Orzoff continued to develop restaurant concepts together until Orzoff's death in 1981.

Through his relationship with Orzoff, Melman formulated a philosophy based on the importance of partners, of sharing responsibilities and profits with them, and of developing and growing together. Today, Melman has 55 working partners, most of whom have come up through the organization. To operate so many restaurants well, Lettuce has needed to hire, train and develop people, and then keep them happy and focused on excellence. Melman's guiding philosophy is that he is not interested in being the biggest or the richest restaurateur, just in being the best he can be. He places enormous value on the over 6,000 people who work for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, and feels tremendous responsibility for their continued success. Melman's personal life revolves around his family. He and his wife Martha have been married for 34 years and have three children.

John Buchanan

Responsibilities: John Buchanan is the President and a founding partner of the Lettuce Consulting Group. In addition to leading the strategic growth and client services of the group, John provides oversight management to all operator and manufacturer engagements. He has particular responsibilities in operational troubleshooting, operating systems implementation, new concept development and menu services as well as training programs for both management and staff.

Consulting Experience: John began laying plans for the Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) consulting division in 1995. At that time, he conceived a different approach to professional consulting. Rather than simply theoretical analysis and written reporting, the Lettuce consulting services would involve a hands-on, partnering method. This approach has resulted in Lettuce Consulting's high level of success. As lead manager, John has conducted engagements in acquisition evaluation, concept creation, operations start-up and improvement as well as menu and product development. John has also developed new consulting services in the areas of leadership culture and human resource practices.

Industry Experience: John began his restaurant career as a dishwasher during his college years in Chicago. After graduation, he worked front-of-the-house positions at a major steak house chain and at a contract foodservice management firm where he became a general manager. John joined LEYE in 1978. His experience with LEYE includes opening and managing over two-dozen different restaurants, multi-unit supervision and several new concept creations. In addition, John founded the LEYE Human Resource Department and was the original author of the firm's Management Training Program.

Teaching and Speaking Engagements: John's passion for the industry makes him a dynamic, popular and frequent speaker at Loyola University, Kendall College, Kellogg School of Management, Roosevelt University and international trade shows. John has been a bi-annual guest instructor at Switzerland's esteemed Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne. He has also been a lecturer as a part of that school's International Hospitality Consulting curriculum. Most recently, he has been invited to lecture at France’s Institut Paul Bocuse.

Education: John earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at Northern Illinois University.

Alan Garfin

Responsibilities: Alan Garfin is a Senior Vice President and a founding partner of the Lettuce Consulting Group. Specific responsibilities include restaurant and other foodservice venue services such as operations improvement and implementation, new concept start-up and facility build-out, human resource development and training.

Consulting Experience: Alan has been instrumental in defining the consulting group's own operating best practices by developing the project methodologies and managing many of the early projects. One of his notable client projects included successfully implementing a more efficient kitchen operating system for a 130-unit casual dining restaurant chain. In addition, Alan has led the operations improvement and start-up teams for various clients such as a multi-national QSR hamburger chain, a regional Mexican cuisine casual dining concept and a fast-casual American comfort food concept. For the past ten years, Alan has developed programs for the premium dining areas in multiple sports venues. Concept refreshes are frequent projects for the group.

Industry Experience: Alan has been with Lettuce for 25 years. Alan began working with LEYE in 1988 as a manager at Scoozi! in Chicago. For the next 10 years, Alan served as an LEYE general manager and area supervisor and was on the opening team for several Lettuce concepts. Prior to joining the Lettuce Consulting Group, he served as an "in-house" trouble-shooter for Lettuce Entertain You restaurants, focusing on back-of-the-house, operations improvement and staff training.

Education: Alan earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management at Indiana University with a concentration in Food and Beverage Management.

Resources

LCG's resources include a highly disciplined group of creative partners and operators, including more than a dozen chef-partners. When it comes to working with food, we provide over one hundred billion trained taste buds. The combined originality of Lettuce's restaurants is unparalleled, with over 35 working concepts presenting a complete repertoire of America's favorite service styles and cuisines including American, Asian, Latino, Italian, French, steak and seafood. Product development and testing resources include sixteen test sites with industrial kitchens in seven states, and a full time culinary staff of two hundred street-wise executive chefs and sous chefs. Lettuce's Marketing, Human Resource and Accounting teams and practices are industry standards.

Client List

Our client work includes a number of local concepts, regional chains, hotel groups, grocery stores, contract feeders, manufacturers, retailers and other foodservice operators. Much of our specific client work is confidential, but our client list includes:

  • AFC Popeye's
  • Anderson Japanese Gardens
  • Brinker International
  • Campbell's Soup
  • Compass Group
  • Clark Retail
  • Coco's / Carrows
  • CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries (Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants, Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom & Rock Bottom Restaurants & Breweries)
  • Delaware North / Sportservice
  • Food Fight Restaurant Group
  • Hollywood Boulevard Cinema
  • Jaguar Hospitality Group
  • Jillian's
  • Juan’s Flying Burrito
  • Kraft Foods
  • Lemon Tree Grocer
  • McCain Foods
  • McDonald's
  • Milano Restaurants International
  • Pinstripes
  • Playboy Clubs International
  • Salt Creek Grille
  • Second City
  • S’MAC
  • Sodexo USA
  • The Gilmore Collection
  • Unilever Best Foods
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Viacom
  • White Lodging
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Wild Oat's Markets
  • Wings (Mexico City)