See http://www.zagat.com/b/empire-ranking#8 for the full list of selections and the ranking criteria.
Lettuce Entertain You
Head honcho: Richard Melman
Main turf: Chicago, IL
Restaurants: 99 restaurants
Markets: Illinois/Chicago, Minneapolis, California, DC and Scottsdale, AZ
Average food score: 21.9
Profile: Operating close to 100 restaurants all across the country is nothing to sneeze at, and founder and CEO Richard Melman of the Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You has over 60 partners helping him out, as well as his three kids. The group owns a wide range of restaurants from fine-dining concepts like L20 and Tru, to fast-casual chains like M Burger, Krispy Kreme and Big Bowl. For Melman, it all started with a single Chicago restaurant, a burger joint called RJ Grunt's, in 1971. Read up on the full family history here.
Head honcho: Michael Mina
Primary turf: San Francisco
Markets: Arizona, California, Nevada, DC, Florida, Maryland, Washington, Wyoming
Average food score: 25.2
Profile: SF-based chef Michael Mina began his career at age 22, on the day of the infamous 1989 earthquake that struck the Golden Gate City. Over 20 years later, his empire spans across the country, known mostly for his eponymous fine-dining concept, his popular Bourbon Steak restaurants, which are expanding by the minute, and the recently opened Michael Mina 74 in South Beach, Miami.
Head honcho: Jose Andres
Primary turf: Washington, DC
Restaurants: 16 currently open
Markets: DC, LA, Las Vegas, Miami, Maryland, Virginia
Average food score: 25.4
Profile: The innovative Spanish-born chef known for his DC-based Jaleo and eclectic concept The Bazaar(LA, Vegas, Miami) now has 16 restaurants to his credit all over the country. As new SLS Hotels open, The Bazaar concept continues to grow, with rumors that the upcoming SLS Philly may have food offerings from the chef as well.