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 773-878-7340

You May Also Like...

How To
How To Win (2X, 3X, 4X even 5X Points) All Summer Long
Aug 6, 2018

Everyone we know loves summer and everyone we know also loves to win. So what if we told you that…

read more >

Recent Posts

How To
A Perfect New Year’s Eve Pair: Hot Doug’s Sausages & Cocktails
Dec 17, 2018

Ring in 2019 with two of our favorite things: Sausages and cocktails! Skip the fancy New Year's…

read more >
In The Restaurants
#LettuceLookBack: 18 of our Favorite Moments of 2018
Dec 16, 2018

It’s been 47 years since we opened the doors of our first restaurant, but 2018 was a year of…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Holiday Happenings Throughout December 2018
Dec 15, 2018

Kids are out on winter break,  the smell of baking spices filling the air and holiday tunes…

read more >
In The Restaurants
New Year’s Eve 2018: Chicagoland
Dec 15, 2018

Do you have plans yet for New Year's Eve? We've got you covered with special dinners, parties and…

read more >
In The Restaurants
New Year’s Eve 2018: Metro D.C. Area
Dec 14, 2018

Hey Washington D.C. area, celebrate the New Year in style with us. From brunch and lunch to dinner…

read more >
In The Restaurants
7 New Holiday Drinks to Sip on This Season at Three Dots and a Dash
Dec 14, 2018

“Mele Kalikimaka, that’s the island greeting that we send to you from the land where palm trees…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Restaurants Open on Christmas Day 2018
Dec 14, 2018

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
Christmas Eve 2018: Chicagoland
Dec 13, 2018

If you are looking to dine out this Christmas Eve, we have restaurants that are open on Monday,…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Pappy Van Winkle is Back and Bub City’s Got It
Dec 12, 2018

Even if you’re not a whiskey aficionado, trust us when we say there’s something special about…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Christmas Eve 2018: Twin Cities
Dec 12, 2018

Twin Cities, Christmas Eve is just around the corner and we want to help you celebrate. Big Bowl and…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Christmas Eve 2018: Las Vegas
Dec 12, 2018

Celebrating Christmas Eve in Vegas? Here are a few of our restaurants open on Monday, December 24.…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Christmas Eve 2018: Metro D.C. Area
Dec 11, 2018

Happy Holidays everyone! We are here to help you celebrate Christmas Eve with delicious meals around…

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!