“Over the years we successfully led projects such as operations improvements, concept development, and new product rollouts. We work shoulder to shoulder with our clients to accomplish the project’s goals.” John Buchanan – President, Lettuce Consulting Group
Founder and Chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises
Richard Melman is Founder and Chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a Chicago-based corporation that owns over 80 restaurants nationwide. The restaurant business has been Melman’s life work, beginning with his early days in a family owned restaurant, and later as a teenager working in fast food eateries, at a soda fountain, and selling restaurant supplies.
After realizing that he wasn’t cut out to be a college student, and failing to convince his father that he should be made a partner in the family business, Melman met Jerry A. Orzoff, a man who immediately and unconditionally believed in Melman’s ability to create and run restaurants. In 1971 the two opened R.J. Grunts, a hip burger joint that soon became one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago. Here Melman and Orzoff presented food differently and with a sense of humor, creating the youthful and fun restaurant which was a forerunner in the trend towards dining out as entertainment that swept this country in the early ’70’s. Melman and Orzoff continued to develop restaurant concepts together until Orzoff’s death in 1981.
Through his relationship with Orzoff, Melman formulated a philosophy based on the importance of partners, of sharing responsibilities and profits with them, and of developing and growing together. Today, Melman has 55 working partners, most of whom have come up through the organization. To operate so many restaurants well, Lettuce has needed to hire, train and develop people, and then keep them happy and focused on excellence. Melman’s guiding philosophy is that he is not interested in being the biggest or the richest restaurateur, just in being the best he can be. He places enormous value on the over 6,000 people who work for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, and feels tremendous responsibility for their continued success. Melman’s personal life revolves around his family. He and his wife Martha have been married for 34 years and have three children.
President and a founding partner of the Lettuce Consulting Group
Responsibilities: John Buchanan is the President and a founding partner of the Lettuce Consulting Group. In addition to leading the strategic growth and client services of the group, John provides oversight management to all operator and manufacturer engagements. He has particular responsibilities in operational troubleshooting, operating systems implementation, new concept development and menu services as well as training programs for both management and staff.
Consulting Experience: John began laying plans for the Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) consulting division in 1995. At that time, he conceived a different approach to professional consulting. Rather than simply theoretical analysis and written reporting, the Lettuce consulting services would involve a hands-on, partnering method. This approach has resulted in Lettuce Consulting’s high level of success. As lead manager, John has conducted engagements in acquisition evaluation, concept creation, operations start-up and improvement as well as menu and product development. John has also developed new consulting services in the areas of leadership culture and human resource practices.
Industry Experience: John began his restaurant career as a dishwasher during his college years in Chicago. After graduation, he worked front-of-the-house positions at a major steak house chain and at a contract foodservice management firm where he became a general manager. John joined LEYE in 1978. His experience with LEYE includes opening and managing over two-dozen different restaurants, multi-unit supervision and several new concept creations. In addition, John founded the LEYE Human Resource Department and was the original author of the firm’s Management Training Program.
Teaching and Speaking Engagements: John’s passion for the industry makes him a dynamic, popular and frequent speaker at Loyola University, Kendall College, Kellogg School of Management, Roosevelt University and international trade shows. John has been a bi-annual guest instructor at Switzerland’s esteemed Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne. He has also been a lecturer as a part of that school’s International Hospitality Consulting curriculum. Most recently, he has been invited to lecture at France’s Institut Paul Bocuse.
Education: John earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at Northern Illinois University.
Loret, as a former practicing psychologist and currently holding credentials from the International Coach Federation as a Life and Executive Coach, is an expert in human behavior, motivation and training. This makes her the ideal choice to lead individual management development efforts, team building strategies and individual executive coaching for the Lettuce Consulting Group.
With a solid track record of developing leaders to deliver financial results, she uses Lettuce’s methods and philosophies to focus on business strategy, company culture and leadership development.
Loret has led consulting initiatives at multiple companies, including Kimpton Restaurants and Hotels, Hyatt, the University of Chicago Medical Centers, Jeremiah Tower’s Stars Restaurant, Michael Jordan’s, Coyote Café, I-Hop and Skyline Chili.
Loret spent 12 years in the Lettuce organization in both Operations and Human Resources. Since then, she has served as President/COO of start-up, turn-around and mature companies of small, mid and large sizes, in both private and public organizations. She is now available to enhance the Lettuce Consulting team.
Loret has served as a board member for the hospitality departments of Cornell University, Purdue University, San Francisco State University, and University of San Francisco. Additionally, she was a founding board member of both Women’s Foodservice Forum and Women Chefs & Restaurateurs.
Loret is a dynamic public speaker who has presented at The National Restaurant Association Convention, COEX and MUFSO, The Aspen Food & Wine Classic, as well as many organizations’ leadership conferences. She has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show as an expert in restaurants and has been featured in The New York Times, Inc. Magazine, Nation’s Restaurant News, Restaurant Business, and Food & Wine Magazine.
She has been awarded “Excellence in Innovation” award from Nation’s Restaurant News, “The National Pacesetter Award” from Roundtable for Women in Foodservice and “Hospitality Motivator of the Year” from Elliot and Associates.
Loret earned a BS in Behavioral Sciences and master’s degrees in Psychology, Psychometrics and Counseling from San Jose State University. She has completed finance classes at Northwestern University and at Santa Clara University’s MBA program.
Our Client List
Our client list includes local concepts, regional chains, hotel groups, grocery stores, contract feeders, manufacturers, retailers and other food service operators. Much of our specific client work is confidential, but some of our client list includes:
The combined originality of Lettuce’s restaurants is unparalleled, with over 65 working concepts representing a complete repertoire of America’s favorite service styles and cuisines
How efficiently does your concept operate? What opportunities for far-reaching savings exist? How do your costs measure up against industry benchmarks? Do your managers have the proper work ethic and attitudes? LCG’s wide experience allows for a rapid assessment of your concept’s strengths and weaknesses. Our “60-Point Rapid Assessment Tool” provides the means to quickly evaluate what processes and systems are currently working positively for the business and, more importantly, what new approaches may be needed to achieve success. Whether your organization already has access to the necessary talent, or whether you need to go to the outside for assistance, our “Rapid Assessment Tool” works equally well to pinpoint what initiatives are needed and what steps need to be taken. The LCG team quickly assesses the effectiveness of your company’s culture, existing systems and procedures (including operational costs), your service and hospitality.
The leader sets the tone for the operation. LCG helps you develop your managers to realize their full potential as well as helping them to meet your specific business goals.
Customized Management Training Programs
Foodservice Culture Programs
You can train for great service, but you must hire for hospitality. LCG provides techniques, templates and seminars to do both effectively.
Interviewing for Success
Efficiency, Salesmanship & Personality Seminars
Employee Retention Strategies
Service Standards & Evaluation Techniques
Training & Policy Manuals
Our BOH Operating System addresses:
Food cost fluctuations (and their control)
Confident management control of kitchen operations
Kitchen layout & equipment specifications
For LCG, it all starts with the food. LCG’s team of culinary experts stands ready to create and develop the great-tasting food that has become a Lettuce trademark.
Culinary Creation & Enhancements
Menu Engineering, Planning & Design
Nationally Prominent Corporate Chefs
Specializing in “Popular” Menu Items
Whether you want to create multiple new concepts or acquire existing concepts, learn the tools that Lettuce has used to build its portfolio of over 60 concepts. We can assist with:
Scaling what you’ve learned and applying it to any type of concept, regardless of its price point, size or sophistication
Maintaining a consistent reputation across your Company for quality, value, and hospitality
Leveraging your reputation to draw your customer base into your newest concepts
Efficient cross-utilization of the Company’s talent
LCG provides expert presentations on a number of critical topics such as:
Sanitation and Food Safety
Getting the Staff to Care
Crisis Communications: What to do when YOU are the news!
Four Walls Marketing: How to enhance your marketing and build your business from within your immediate area
Public Relations, Special Events and Promotions: Getting the word out about your concept!
Successful Marketing Programs: How to build and grow them
Integrated Marketing: How to build an Integrated Program and tie it together to enhance your marketing efforts
Guide to Handling Customer Dissatisfaction
Preventing Foodborne Contamination
Creating & Maintaining a Safe Environment for Your Guests
Building an infrastructure too soon can consume profits needed for your expansion efforts. Wait too long and valuable growth opportunities can be mismanaged. LCG provides expertise on how to “right-size” your company and maximize your corporate resources.
A brilliant corporate strategy without execution is unproductive. At the Lettuce Consulting Group, we understand that the backdrop for delivering desired financial results includes excellence in several corporate departments and that the relationship between these two is an ongoing collaboration.
Our services offer support in all these areas. We know that the combination of strong technical skills, a clear culture and quality leadership gives an organization a firm foundation for both strategic and financial success.
Finance and Accounting
Culture Assessment and Development
Team-building at all levels
Individual Executive Coaching
Purchasing and Distribution
Marketing Strategy and “Four Walls” Marketing
We all get older and it can’t be stopped. It happens to the best of us. And, it happens to concepts, too. There is no definite timetable as to when a refresh is appropriate, but declining sales, lower customer counts and a general lack of staff enthusiasm are all red flags. LCG can analyze critical elements of your concept and create a new, viable plan for success.
Operational services include:
Business Problem Identification
Labor Cost Analysis
Recipe & Cost Analysis
New Store Openings
POS System Consulting
Time & Motion Studies
Get in Touch
"Over the years we successfully led projects such as operations improvements, concept development, and new product rollouts. We work shoulder to shoulder with our clients to accomplish the project's goals." John Buchanan - President, Lettuce Consulting Group
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