Top 100 independents adapt with the times

Even in the face of rising wages and a slow economic rebound, Top 100 independents thrive by adjusting to consumers’ demands.

“No change has floored me as much as [this]. It’s something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime,” Union Square Hospitality Group CEO Danny Meyer said during a TEDx event last March in New York City. “That is the convergence of fine dining and casual dining.”

 

 

That dramatic, unexpected convergence of uptown and downtown, formal and laid back, has transformed the American dining scene. It is about the evolution of old paradigms and the fresh breath of new ideas. And it is key to understanding the results of Restaurant Business’ 2015 Top 100 Independents ranking.

Our list spotlights the country’s top-grossing restaurants with no more than five locations. Their aggregate food-and-beverage revenues totaled nearly $1.7 billion in 2014 (the full year of sales upon which the rankings are based). So in a sense, the Top 100 is a measure of success.

But it may be a better measure of survival skills. These are the venerable spots, such as Joe’s Stone Crab and Sparks Steak House, that have adapted to customers’ changing demands. And they’re the newer concepts, like Starr Restaurants’ Makoto, that capitalize on today’s dining dynamics.

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