The current turmoil plaguing restaurant chains has pundits pinning falling sales and traffic on everything from politics to independents snatching market share.
As evidence, distributors are cautiously optimistic about the trending performance of indies. In its most recent earnings call, Performance Food Group’s CEO said its independent growth has been steady, while chains were softening. “It’s difficult to determine how independent restaurants are performing, but the way we look at it, and the way it feels to us, they are performing better today than the chains are performing,” he said.
US Foods’ execs told analysts in August they’re targeting independents, after its Q2 sales (reported in August) to these spots remained strong.
Counter to that snapshot are the high-profile exits of some top-grossing independents in the past year—several of which were booted after decades at the top by landlords looking to free up space for trendier concepts. Even the indies holding strong on our current Top 100 ranking are feeling battered by all things labor, showing that no operator—independent or chain—can rest on their laurels in today’s tumultuous times.
Here are four Top 100 Independents that won't be on the list next year.
Gladstones; Pacific Palisades, Calif.
2015 rank: 49
RB’s last Top 100 ranking pegged the 44-year-old seaside outpost’s 2014 sales at $15.4 million. Now local media is reporting that officials want to put a more contemporary restaurant on the state-owned plot and are using the bait of a 40-year lease to draw one. The stories note that Gladstones’ management didn’t fight the decision. As of press time, a closing date had yet to be set.
Spice Market, New York City
2015 rank: 50
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s cavernous Asian hybrid in New York’s Meatpacking District closed its doors Sept. 29 after 13 years and $15.4 million in sales during its last full year of operation. Its landlord has reportedly decided to bring in a retailer, while Vongerichten and his partners claim to be looking for a new location for Spice Market (two other Spice Markets operate in Qatar and Mexico).
The Four Seasons, New York City
2015 rank: 67
This longtime haunt of power brokers, with over $14 million in sales, shuttered in July after the owner of the building that housed it for 57 years refused to renew its lease. While a revamp is underway to bring new eateries into the space, efforts to reopen The Four Seasons elsewhere have been legally stalled by two partners claiming they had a franchise deal.
Bartolotta Ristorante Di Mare, Las Vegas
2015 rank: 94
Moments after last year’s Top 100 ranking went to press came word that chef Paul Bartolotta would depart his namesake (and flagship) restaurant in the Wynn Las Vegas, which grossed $12.3 million in 2014. The hotel swapped in a new chef and called it Costa di Mare. Among the things that didn’t change: the langoustines, a menu signature.