Emerging Concepts

The Top 100 Independent Restaurants

Recently, Restaurant Business came out with the top 100 independent restaurants in America. This ranking reflects those with the highest earnings and, of course, independently owned. 

So, what is it about these restaurants that brought them such great success? What unique experience, food, or aesthetics do they offer? How many units do they have, and did they stay regional or expand across the nation? As in any industry, understanding those who succeed can help create a streamlined, less rocky path for those who follow.

Let’s explore some of the top contenders from different states.

Smith & Wollensky

This legendary steakhouse in New York City was born in 1977. Today, its annual sales reach almost $26 million. Are Smith and Wollensky the founders? No. Those names were randomly selected from a phone book late one night. (For those unfamiliar with phone books, they were large city directories weighing up to 4 pounds and listing all the inhabitants and businesses. I’m feeling slightly old.)

Smith & Wollensky has stayed true to its original brand focus—dry-aged, hand-butchered USDA Prime grade beef. Their beef cures in-house for up to four weeks, where you can find up to 12 tons at any given time. They also offer a unique experience called Wine Week three times a year. For an extra $20 with lunch, guests receive ten generous samples of varying wines.

According to The New York Times, it’s “A Steakhouse to end all arguments.”

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

This award-winning pizzeria is located in San Francisco’s Little Italy. Tony Gemignani won the World Pizza Cup in Naples in 2007 and managed to transform that win into a restaurant. Today, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana’s annual sales reach over $12.7 million, and many of the ingredients are imported from Napoli.

Care to try what some consider the world’s best pizza? They’ve partnered with Gold Belly, a gourmet food delivery service that ships nationwide.

Arnaud’s

Located in New Orleans, Arnaud’s has been serving classic Creole cuisine in the French Quarter since 1918. Today, its annual sales are over $25 million. For more than 100 years, the brand has remained true to its traditions, providing live jazz in the Jazz Bistro, romantic dinners in the Main Room, and cocktails in the French 75 Bar. Some would call it the quintessential New Orleans experience.

Bavarian Inn Restaurant

This German-themed restaurant is in Frankenmuth, Michigan, where it’s resided since 1888. It started as the Union House Hotel before being purchased by another family, remodeled, and named the Bavarian Inn. Again, it’s a restaurant staying true to its roots and passed down to three generations. Today, annual sales reach over $18.2 million.

The Bavarian Inn Restaurant has also added a lodge that encompasses the “Little Bavaria” theme, making for a destination hot spot. In 2024, they’re incorporating Michigan’s biggest indoor water park for a mere cost of $80 million. 

The Spot

The Spot’s beachfront location in Galveston focuses on fresh food, such as locally sourced seafood and hand-spun milkshakes. Founded in 1998, it was purchased four years later by one of the employees who had worked his way up from a dishwasher to a chef, learning the ways of the restaurant industry. 

It now has five different concepts in one location, including four bars: the Tiki Bar, RumShack, SideYard, and Squeeze Ritas & Tequilas. To create the perfect destination spot, they added two beachfront hotels. Today, The Spot earns over 12.3 million annually.

Prime 112

Heading over to Miami, you’ll find Prime 112, a celebrity hot spot with annual sales of over $24 million. This chef-driven steakhouse opened in 2003 and provides a high-energy environment known for its original menu, sexy décor, and up-tempo music, making it one of the most sought-after reservations in town. 

Myles Restaurant Group, with CEO Myles Alan Chefetz, owns four other concepts as well as the Prime Hotel. The hotel is next to Prime 112 and features a cabana-lined rooftop pool. 

Emerging Concepts

Have you noticed a growing theme? These restaurants have stayed true to their original brand and roots, many of which grow deep and long. Some have also expanded into the hotel business.

They set a course, whether the finest steakhouse, a Bavarian-themed retreat, or a beachside fresh-food concept, and became the best at their chosen role.

At EMERGING, we help restaurants set their course and sail smoothly to their next destination. We support our clients in hiring strategies, supply chain performance and selection, increasing revenue, financing, and strategic expansion. To learn more or to schedule a complimentary consultation, contact EMERGING today.

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Emerging Concepts
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