After a two-year hiatus of no openings, the MINA Group has more restaurants in the pipeline than ever before—but it didn’t happen overnight.

Celebrity chef Michael Mina’s restaurateur era first began with opening fine-dining concept Aqua in San Francisco, where he earned two Michelin stars and the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef Award in 1997. It was focused on upscale seafood and adamantly against serving steak—which Mina now laughs at, since his most successful restaurant concepts are now steakhouses. 

Born in Cairo, Egypt, and raised in Ellensburg, Washington, Mina parlayed his passion for cooking and vision of partnering with hotels and casinos when he created the MINA Group in 2002, which has since grown to over 30 restaurants. The collective’s concepts range from upscale steakhouses like Bourbon Steak and Strip Steak to the recently launched Orla, which marries Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine influences. “Each dish at Orla is a reflection of the Egyptian food I grew up with, transformed by the techniques I’ve honed throughout my career,” Mina notes.

At the end of May, the group debuted Bourbon Steak in Manhattan—Mina’s first venture into New York City, and the concept’s eighth location. The MINA Group was recently featured in FSR’s 11 Restaurant Groups On the Rise in 2024, where Mina described Bourbon Steak as “our love letter to timeless steakhouse dishes,” which combines new world flavors and creativity in a lineup of traditional steakhouse dishes, seafood selections, and a cutting-edge wine and spirits program. Mina’s flagship namesake restaurant is on the Las Vegas strip at the Bellagio, offering contemporary seafood and American cuisine prepared with seasonal produce. 

Michael Mina’s namesake restaurant in the Bellagio Las Vegas is known for its five-star service and selection of expertly curated seafood, which is flown in by private plane daily.

“If there was an invisible thread that connects them all, it would be our hospitality—making the guest feel like they’re the only diners in the restaurant that night, that they’re welcome and taken care of, and given a dining experience like no other,” he adds.

The restaurants under his portfolio share another common denominator: Each one started out at the Mina Test Kitchen, a small restaurant with 40 seats where Mina and his team fully test out concepts, 12 to 14 dishes at a time. “That’s where a lot of these newer concepts have come from now,” Mina says on a recent episode of The Restaurant Innovator podcast.

The recent growth spurt follows a two-year hiatus of no new openings. The company has 18 new restaurants in the works over the next two years, including seven new concepts this year alone. “We have the largest pipeline of restaurants we’ve ever had right now,” MINA Group CEO Jason Himber reveals in the podcast episode. 

Himber joined the MINA Group from a background in fast-casual and quick-service restaurants in finance and development roles at companies such as Yum! Brands and CMG Companies. “My whole career has been about failing and learning. I’d like to believe that’s part of what’s helped shape me into the leader that I’ve become today, because I’ve been fearless about failing, and sort of unwavering in my commitment to learn and not repeat past mistakes,” Himber shares. 

“One of the harshest but best pieces of advice I received was … ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re the smartest person in the room if nobody’s listening.’ That was kind of a big punch in the stomach,” Himber adds. “It really impacted me and made me realize how important it is to not demonstrate how good you are, but to make everybody else great around you, and to kind of meet people where they are.”

Those learnings have translated into the MINA Group’s growth strategy, which focuses on meeting customers where they are with thoughtful, data-driven expansion into markets where we already resonate with consumers,” Himber notes, including international growth and opportunities in the Middle East, Asia, and other parts of the Mediterranean.

The commitment to continual education is also a key priority for the company, showcased by the creation of Mina University, an internal development program designed to train and retain talent that launched during the pandemic. Mina explains, “That was when we really started developing online tools to help connect us with each other, our community of chefs and general managers and management teams.”

It started with Recipe Exchange, which was built on the premise that every recipe and technique would be available to employees digitally from day one, ensuring consistency and high standards across all locations. The digital platform has evolved into a comprehensive training system, offering courses on leadership, financial education, and personal development.

“The only way we can grow as a business is through talent and people growing within the business,” Mina says. “If you start as a dishwasher and want to be a chef, we want you to be a chef.”

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE MINA GROUP’S STORY ON THE RESTAURANT INNOVATOR PODCAST

Chef Profiles, Feature, Growth, The MINA Group