Restaurant Business Power 20: Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

Restaurant Business Power 20: Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

Restaurant Business |
Mar 22, 2017

Richard Melman, the founder and chairman of arguably one of the most well-known MCO groups, made his business philosophy evident when accepting his James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement award in 2015. “It’s hard when you do things just for the money. The restaurant business is too difficult if you’re not in love with it.” With more than 100 restaurants under the Lettuce Entertain You umbrella, including nine opened in the last year, it’s a mindset he’s passed on to the rest of his team.

“You can’t help but admire him and realize his brilliance,” said fellow MCO Larry Levy, co-founder of Levy Restaurants, to the James Beard Foundation. And that includes treating staffers in the organization—many of whom worked their way up—as partners and profit-sharers. Among the group’s latest concepts, for example, is Mediterranean-inspired Ema, helmed by chef C.J. Jacobson, who first started his partnership with LEYE as the first chef-in-residence at its Intro rotating incubator before turning the concept into a spot of its own.

While Ema is upscale, it’s not just high-end concepts that the group is known for in modern days. LEYE has been expanding its positioning with more casual spots in Chicago: Tallboy Taco, a taqueria run from its Nacional 27 restaurant; fast casual M Burger; and Beatrix, which turned half of its location in Northwestern Hospital into a grab-and-go spot.

LEYE has been growing steadily, with five or so new restaurants in the works right now. Still, overt growth hasn’t been the plan. “What our dad has really instilled in us and our partners is that our goal is not size,” says Executive Partner Jerrod Melman. “It’s not about the number of concepts, but rather about finding things we are passionate about and that we know we can do well,” he says.

“ONE OF OUR BIGGEST BENEFITS IS THAT … WE ARE COMPETITIVE WITH OURSELVES. OUR PARTNERS HELP PUSH US TO DO NEW THINGS.” —R.J. MELMAN


Family plans

The next generation of Melmans—R.J., Jerrod and Molly—weigh in on the group’s success.

How do you push LEYE to innovate?

“There’s strength in the way we’re set up,” says R.J. “One thing that makes Lettuce unique is our partnerships. They push our innovation,” says Jerrod.

What’s Lettuce’s philosophy for growth?

“One guiding principle is, ‘Do we get excited about the food?’” says R.J. Adds Jerrod, “We’re in a fortunate position where we’re able to be picky.”

How do you keep the company relevant?

“We’re constantly looking at what we do, analyzing the best and worst sellers, trying to stay relevant within ourselves,” says Molly.

Concepts: Antico Posto, Beatrix, Big Bowl Fresh Chinese and Thai, Bub City, Cafe Ba- Ba-Reeba, Community Canteen, Di Pescara, Don & Charlie’s, Eiffel Tower Restaurant, El Segundo Sol, Ema, Everest, foodlife, Frankie’s Scaloppine & Fifth Floor Pizzeria, Hub 51, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge, M Burger, M Street Kitchen, Magic Pan Crepe Stand, Mity Nice Bar & Grill, Mon Ami Gabi, Nacional 27, Naoki, Osteria via Stato, Petterino’s, Pizzeria via Stato, R.J. Grunts, Reel Club, RPM Italian, Saranello’s, Shaw’s Crab House, Stella Barra Pizzeria, Stripburger, Studio Paris Nightclub, Summer House Santa Monica, Tokio Pub, Tru, Tucci Benucch, Twin City Grill, Wildfire, Wow Bao and more

Media Contact

Emily Clark pr@leye.com 773-907-7347

Recent Posts

How To
Gift Guide: Beyond a Bottle of Wine
Dec 15, 2017

Your mother told you this a million times and it still holds true today - never go to a party… read more >

In The Restaurants
Where to go on Christmas Eve 2017
Dec 14, 2017

As friends and family start trickling in for the holidays, skip the hassle of cooking and take them… read more >

In The Restaurants
Restaurants Open on Christmas Day, 2017
Dec 14, 2017

The most wonderful time of the year is here, but this Christmas skip the stress and let us do the… read more >

In The Restaurants
“La Nascosta” Wines, il Porcellino’s Secret Stash
Dec 14, 2017

Meet il Porcellino's new "La Nascosta" wine selection, a secret stash showcasing 12 rare and unique… read more >

How To
The Perfect Party Appetizers
Dec 14, 2017

A well-crafted appetizer is the perfect way to make sure your guests won't go hungry so you can… read more >

In The Restaurants
Coldbusters & Hot Cocktails for the Chilly Weather
Dec 13, 2017

Braving the Chicago winter just got a little bit easier this year with an array of hot cocktails and… read more >

In The Restaurants
Holiday Happenings Throughout December
Dec 10, 2017

Kids are out on winter break, snow is falling, the smell of baking spices filling the air and… read more >

How To
8 Wines For Your Next Holiday Party
Dec 9, 2017

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and with it are parties with family and friends. Instead… read more >

In The Restaurants
Hanukkah Specials 2017
Dec 8, 2017

Hanukkah (Tuesday, December 12 – Wednesday, December 20) is around the corner! After gathering… read more >

How To
Anatomy of a Good Soup
Dec 6, 2017

A piping hot bowl of flavorful soup can fill your body and soul with happiness, if it’s made well… read more >

In The Restaurants
Welcome Our 2017 Newcomers
Dec 5, 2017

2017 is coming to a close, but we opened lots of new doors this year! Lettuce has welcomed newcomers… read more >

In The Restaurants
Celebrate 25 Days of Lettuce with 25 Insta-ready Dishes
Dec 4, 2017

If you didn’t post it on Instagram, did you ever really eat it? We’re counting down the holidays… read more >

How To
12 Days of Holiday Cookies
Dec 4, 2017

‘Twas the first day of the holiday season, one of cheer and treats The best month to warm up by… read more >

How To
How To Build the Ultimate Gingerbread House
Dec 3, 2017

Looking for a fun, holiday activity to keep the kids busy? How about try your hand at building the… read more >

Openings
The First Fully Automated Wow Bao is Now Open
Dec 1, 2017

On December 1, Wow Bao opened Chicago’s first and only fully automated dining experience.… read more >

How To
Recipe: Potato Latkes | adapted from Bub City
Nov 30, 2017

Celebrate Hanukkah by making these home-cook-friendly latkes, adaped from Bub City's own recipe.… read more >

Openings
Been to Booth One Yet? Here Are 5 Reasons Why You Must Go
Nov 27, 2017

It's the return of an icon, a classic Chicago restaurant reinvented, one of the most storied dining… read more >

In The Restaurants
Bottoms Up for New Year’s Eve 2017
Nov 26, 2017

There's no better place to ring in 2018 than with a glass of bubbly at a Lettuce destination.… read more >

In The Restaurants
New Year’s Day 2018
Nov 26, 2017

It's the first year of the new year and there's only one way to celebrate - brunch! Stop into one of… read more >

How To
10 Ways to Use Your Lettuce Gift Card
Nov 26, 2017

Your favorite Holiday Promotion is back! For every $100 purchased in Lettuce Entertain You Gift… read more >

In The Restaurants
Best Spots for Group Dining
Nov 25, 2017

You finally got the whole crew to agree on the same day and time, now you just have to find the… read more >

How To
Perfect Pair: Beaujolais, Lowbrow to Highbrow
Nov 23, 2017

Say Oui! because Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive! Classic French bistro, Mon Ami Gabi, is celebrating… read more >

How To
Thanksgiving Leftovers Can Transform Your Brunch
Nov 22, 2017

Everyone knows the real reason you look forward to Thanksgiving is for the leftovers. So don’t… read more >

How To
Recipe: Beatrix’s Charcoal Cocktail, Midnight Flight
Nov 16, 2017

Meet the Midnight Flight, Beatrix's new charcoal cocktail featuring a split base of a smokey mezcal… read more >

How To
How To: Make Thanksgiving Dinner Like a Chef
Nov 15, 2017

In charge of preparing Thanksgiving dinner this year or simply looking for recipe inspiration? Our… read more >

In The Restaurants
Rise & Shine: The Best Way to Breakfast During the Week
Nov 13, 2017

Early risers rejoice! We've rounded up all of our weekday breakfast specialties that will keep you… read more >

In The Restaurants
Late Night & Live Music with Lettuce
Nov 9, 2017

Night owls rejoice - select Lettuce restaurants and nightclubs offer everything from late-night food… read more >

How To
A Guide to Selecting the Perfect Thanksgiving Wines
Nov 7, 2017

Fact: wine stores are intimidating. More truth: we're here to help! We've tapped the minds of our… read more >

In The Restaurants
Where to Eat Lunch
Nov 3, 2017

For that one hour escape from your office, you want to make sure to make most of your lunch hour.… read more >

In The Restaurants
What’s Hot in Hot Sauce
Nov 1, 2017

Welcome to Oyster Bah, our East Coast oyster Mecca dedicated to serving up the freshest seafood and… read more >

In The Restaurants
Thanksgiving 2017
Nov 1, 2017

This Thanksgiving, be thankful that you don't have to spend hours slaving away over the stove,… read more >

How To
How to Host Friendsgiving
Nov 1, 2017

Friendsgiving (n): the turkey-centric festive feast held by your chosen family - your friends - to… read more >

In The Restaurants
Fall Harvest’s Best Dishes
Oct 30, 2017

The bounty of fall harvest comes at a time in the year when we are craving the comfort of cool… read more >

How To
Recipe: Ema’s Pumpkin Hummus
Oct 30, 2017

Enjoy your favorite fall ingredient the Mediterranean way and make Ema's Pumpkin Hummus by Chef CJ… read more >

In The Restaurants
Time to Party! Three Dots and a Dash’s New Cocktail Menu Launches
Oct 26, 2017

Three Dots and a Dash’s new cocktail menu is dropping on November 2, and you better believe it's… read more >

In The Restaurants
Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurants
Oct 24, 2017

Finding gluten-free friendly restaurants has gotten a lot easier than it used to be. At Lettuce… read more >

In The Restaurants
All Pumpkin, Everything
Oct 22, 2017

'Tis the season for everyone's favorite fall ingredient, pumpkin. Whether you're preparing pumpkin… read more >

How To
It’s Apple Season: Where To Get Them and Where To Eat Them
Oct 19, 2017

Yeah, yeah, pumpkin this and pumpkin that, but let us not forget about our other favorite fall… read more >

How To
Recipe: Ramen-san’s Japanese Ol’ Fashioned
Oct 19, 2017

The Japanese Ol' Fashioned at Ramen-san is a new take on the classic American cocktail. Keep your… read more >

How To
Video: How To Crack A Stone Crab
Oct 19, 2017

It's stone crab season at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab! Learn the proper way to crack… read more >

Lettuce Consulting Group

Grow Your Business

Learn More
Career Opportunities

Join Our Team

Search Jobs
Latest Articles

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign Up Now

Lettuce on Instagram

Checkout our feed @lettuceentertainyou!