FSR 50: Top 10 High-Performing Micro-Chains

Paul Martin’s American Grill

Small but mighty, that’s the defining characteristic of micro-chains that boast multi-million-dollar portfolios.

What, pray tell, is a micro-chain? Fair question, with a fairly obvious answer: A micro-chain has fewer units than most chains. For the FSR ranking of Top 10 High-Performing Micros, we focused on chains with five to nine units in the U.S. as of the end of 2014—and of course, with some pretty amazing sales being generated. This list displays the diversity of choices that has become increasingly popular in the burgeoning full-service restaurant space—from the classic Italian cuisine of Carmine’s and Il Mulino, to the eclectic Southern fare of Tupelo Honey Café, and the classic American seafood and steak at Redstone American Grill. Even further from the traditional business model, two of the brands combine dining and entertainment concepts: Pinstripes with its bowling and bocce, Hakkasan in Vegas with a nightclub. A sense of identity carries throughout the list—and to some extent at each location, as some chains alter their menu depending upon region, while others alter the look depending upon location. Ultimately, the overarching strategy is that each company builds the brand around its audience—the key to restaurant success regardless of whether a chain has five, 50, or 500 units.


total 2014 sales: $80 million

Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2015, Carmine’s continues to prosper. With six successful locations already—including its two-year-old, 28,000-square-foot Vegas landmark, which boasts 750 seats, nine private dining rooms, and lays claim to being the biggest non-club restaurant on the Strip—the Italian micro-chain is looking into potential locations in Orlando and Toronto. They seek out the right regions for their units and only open one per market, with New York City being an exception with its two locations. The brand’s formula for success is impressing customers with large spaces and huge, family-style portions. The company has released two cookbooks, including last year’s Carmine’s Celebrates, and its flagship Times Square location consistently attracts the theater crowd, which is how people throughout the country know the name.

AUV: $13.3 million
Unit count (Dec. 2014): 5 in the U.S., 1 in the Bahamas
Locations: Atlantic City, Las Vegas, New York City, and Washington D.C.


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