In their first restaurant venture, brothers R.J. and Jerrod Melman (sons of Richard Melman, founder of multiconcept operator Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises) created HUB 51 in Chicago’s River North area. Still in their 20s, the brothers wanted HUB 51 to draw customers in their age group yet appeal to a wider demographic.
“So we developed a concept to attract customers of all ages who want wonderful food and to have fun,” R.J. Melman says. Customers waiting for a dining-room table or just meeting with friends can relax in the bustling bar that features a 20-foot-long full-service counter and draft tower. An elevated DJ booth overlooks the bar and contributes to the cool vibe. Downstairs, a 1,400-square-foot lounge features a bar, dance floor and stage.
The judges were impressed that food and beverage production and storage consume only 27 percent of HUB 51’s overall space. “This seems like the targeted standard, but it is harder to achieve on two levels and with expo cooking,” Kuczera says. “Seats and stools mean revenue, and this has never been more important than it is in today’s tight economic environment. We designed HUB 51 to be lean and tight.”
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