Skip to main content

Richard Melman

Founder & Chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

MelmanRichard Melman is founder and chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a Chicago-based corporation that owns more than 95 restaurants nationwide.

Melman has worked in the hospitality service industry his entire life, beginning with his early days in a family-owned restaurant, and later as a teenager working in fast food operations, 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 where the food was presented with a sense of humor. Their style was well-received, and R.J. Grunts quickly became one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago.

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, and of developing and growing together. Today, Melman has more than 60 working partners, most of whom have come up through the organization.

Lettuce Entertain You prides itself on hiring, training and developing quality employees who are happy with their jobs and focused on excellence. Melman's guiding philosophy is that he is not interested in being the biggest, richest or most famous restaurateur. He just wants to be the best he can be. He places enormous value on the roughly 7,000 people who work for Lettuce Entertain You, and feels tremendous responsibility for their continued success. Today, Melman is committed to developing the young leaders of his company to ensure that it will be around for another 42 years.

Melman and his wife of 37 years, Martha, have three grown children, all of whom are also successful restaurateurs.