A conversation with the latest and last sibling to enter into the restaurant biz.
If you don’t know Molly Melman, you should. She’s the force behind the next generation of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, and chances are she’ll be the visionary behind LEYE’s next hot spot in town. “Molly brings a lot of wonderful attributes to her work,” observes her mother, Martha Melman. “She always wants to do her best, try her hardest and be seamlessly successful. I’m incredibly proud of her.”
Compared to her gregarious siblings, R.J. and Jerrod, Ms. Melman seems subdued. But make no mistake – she brings fresh ideas to an already groundbreaking brand. According to dad, Rich Melman, “Molly is quieter and more thoughtful” than her brothers and she’s “a great balance for them.”
TCW recently spent time with Molly Melman, getting a glimpse into her life in the restaurant business.
Did you always want to follow in your father’s footsteps? I didn’t, actually. I originally went into teaching. I didn’t love it, so I moved back to Chicago right as Hub 51 opened. While I was figuring things out for the summer, I decided to help out my family. As I was hosting, I thought, ‘You know what? I actually love coming to work every day.’
Who inspires you most? My dad. I know it’s kind of a cliché answer, but he loves what he does. He has so much passion and interest in the restaurant business. He literally eats, sleeps and breathes it.
Share the best advice you’ve ever received. Growing up, Dad told us, ‘Find your passion and then work your hardest at it.’
What are some crazy things customers do? People do all sorts of crazy things. They say they have a reservation when they don’t. They say they know my dad and are friends of the family, and I don’t necessarily know who they are. But at the end of the day, people like to come in and eat at our restaurants, so it’s flattering at the same time.
And you’re most proud of… Our product. I have a lot of pride in our restaurants and the way we operate. I tell the servers there are two sides of the restaurant business – service and food. Without food, people aren’t going to come back, but without service people really aren’t going to come back. I think we have the whole package.
How do you like working with your family? It’s fun! Any time there’s a family aspect there’s going to be some ups and downs, but I think that’s what makes us better. We’ll have arguments and duke it out, but at the end of the day we can stop, sit back and think, ‘What do we have to take from this?’ The cool thing about it is the brutal honesty. There’s nothing you can hide working with your brothers.
What’s your favorite LEYE restaurant? Because I’m working so much at Hub 51, Paris Club and RPM Italian, those are like my babies. In terms of relaxing and going out, I go to Joe’s Stone Crab the most. I told my mom I could eat there every single day and still be happy.
What’s your favorite go-to at Joe’s? Stone crab, vegetable chopped salad and the famous Joe’s tomatoes. That’s perfect for me…if I go with my mom. If I go with guys, I have to get a steak.
Guilty pleasure? Because I’m on my feet all day, I like to sit on the couch, eat a nice, quiet meal and watch crappy television. You know, Bachelor Pad or whatever’s on. I sit there thinking, ‘This is so dumb that I spent two hours of my life watching this.’ But, it’s relaxing.
What’s next? That’s a tough one. This business is part of my life, so I definitely want to continue to be a part of it. I also want to have a family. You know, my mom stopped working after she had us, so that runs through my mind. But I want to still be a part of openings and contribute to the business, so I’ll try to figure out that balance between family and work.
Good luck with that!