When Mario Batali opened Babbo in 1998, his plan was not to launch dozens of restaurants. So what drove the growth of the Italian group? A longtime sous chef from Babbo said he was ready for a new challenge—and he helped concept and open Casa Mono. That’s been Batali and partner Joe Bastianich’s philosophy behind expanding B&B Hospitality. “When the second in command becomes ready to develop his or her own project, I take him or her on as our partner.”

With each new concept, from the year-old La Sirena at NYC’s Maritime Hotel to the growth of Italian food hall Eataly’s three new markets planned for the next 20 months, the objective hasn’t been to create altogether new food, but instead to have a distinctive approach, says Batali. “In both the front and back of house, we innovate in order to make our businesses more efficient and our food even more delicious,” he says. “That often involves incorporating technology into our restaurant environments, be it to track food waste or automate invoicing or streamline prepays.” The one guideline the group follows: “We don’t innovate for the sake of change.”

Fun fact: Which restaurant groups does Batali admire for the way they run their businesses? Stephen Starr and Jose Andres.

Concepts: B&B Ristorante, B&B Buger & Beer, Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, Bar Jamon, Becco, Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, Casa Mono, Chi Spacca, Del Posto, Eataly, Esca, Felidia, La Sirena, Lidia’s, Lupa, Mozza2Go, Osteria Mozza, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, Pizzeria Mozza, Tarry