Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has named founder Rich Melman’s son — R.J. Melman — as the new president of Chicago’s largest restaurant group. The older Melman has spent 46 years with the company and will remain involved while retaining his title of chairman. R.J. Melman, along with siblings Jerrod and Molly Melman, are credited with opening 13 LEYE concepts, according to a news release that went out Wednesday afternoon.
Rich Melman founded LEYE in 1971 with the opening of R.J. Grunts in Lincoln Park. He turned 75 this year. He’s become synonymous with the Chicago restaurant scene, known for LEYE’s aggressive expansions. They’ve dabbled in fine dining, fast casual, and even opened up restaurants at O’Hare International Airport.
LEYE CEO Kevin Brown had already assumed day-to-day operations of the company and was the previous president. Rich Melman last served as company president 14 years ago. While 38-year-old R.J. Melman (a University of Kansas graduate), takes over as president, Brown will keep the CEO’s title. The two will work as partners, according to the release.
Earlier this year, Crain’s speculated that his move was coming. While this isn’t a surprise, it’s a big shift for one of the biggest players in the country’s restaurant industry.