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Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants, Entertaining Guests For 50 Years

“I don’t want to be the biggest, I don’t want to be the richest, I don’t want to be the most well-known. I just want to be the best I can be.” – Rich Melman

June 10, 2021: Chicago, IL – June ushers in a major milestone for Lettuce Entertain You, 50 years since its first restaurant, R.J. Grunts, opened its doors (June 10, 1971), which remains a staple in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

“When R.J. Grunts opened, business was very slow for the first few months,” said Rich Melman, Founder and Chairman.  “We were running out of money, and I started thinking that we’d have to close the restaurant, crushing all my hopes and dreams. Then suddenly, like magic, Grunts caught on and became one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago. To this day, that feeling of potential failure has stayed with me. And now I see that those early struggles helped mold me as a businessman and taught me never to take success for granted.”

With R.J. Grunts, Melman set out with a goal to create a fun, hip restaurant he and his friends would enjoy, where food was presented differently and with a sense of humor. R.J. Grunts sparked what is now the innovation that is Lettuce Entertain You, a company with more than 60 brands and 130 restaurants across more than one dozen states.

Lettuce began as a result of Rich Melman’s innovative ideas combined with the business acumen of Jerry A. Orzoff, Melman’s first partner. A successful realtor, Orzoff played a crucial role in Melman’s life as a close friend and mentor.

Following the opening of R.J. Grunts, 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 partnership, sharing responsibilities and ideas, developing and growing together, with a “culture of caring” ethos which has been paramount to the company since day one.

Did you know?

The milestones of the history of Lettuce Entertain You from 1971 to today can be seen here.

Lettuce will celebrate this momentous milestone throughout the year in the following ways:

As Lettuce Entertain You embarks on its next 50 years, it looks to continue growth into new markets around the country.

“We are excited about the opportunities to continue to innovate and develop new projects, both in and out of Chicago,” says R.J. Melman, President, Lettuce Entertain You. “We have several new restaurants in the works including our first in Miami, Florida, plus expansion in Texas, providing opportunities for our talented team to grow with us and to add new faces to our organization.”

Looking ahead to the future, Founder Rich Melman is excited for the new prospects that lie ahead for Lettuce, saying, “For me success means never being done, never being satisfied and always striving to be better. When you strive for excellence, you’re never finished.”

For a full list of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants open for indoor and outdoor dining, carryout and delivery, visit or follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

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