Late-night Hub 51 not just a summer job for Melman sons

Late-night Hub 51 not just a summer job for Melman sons

CHICAGO —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

The brothers are now hands-on co-managing partners of Hub 51, a two-month-old restaurant here that is a part of the Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises [3] empire, which their father, concept guru Richard Melman, heads as LEYE’s chairman of the board. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

As full-timers, the Melman brothers now appear to be making a name for themselves while overseeing certain break-the-mold aspects of the lively, loft-like Hub 51. Its unusual-for-LEYE closing times—midnight four evenings weekly and up to three hours later the other three nights—have quickly helped the place attract widespread attention and regular customers. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

R.J., 29, and Jerrod, 25, typically work 12-to-18-hour days. They honed their skills at other LEYE restaurants during summer vacations as teenagers, and then they went through the company’s standard management training program. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

Although R.J. toyed with the idea of going to law school or into politics while majoring in political science at the University of Kansas, he instead returned to the restaurant work he’d enjoyed since his first kitchen job at age 17 at Chicago’s Heaven on Seven, which is not an LEYE restaurant. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

Five days after college graduation, he started a sous-chef job with LEYE’s Wildfire [4] division. He later switched to front-of-the-house duties and became general manager of R.J. Grunt’s, LEYE’s original restaurant. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

“I always liked working in the restaurants, but I thought of it as a summer job,” said Jerrod Melman, who majored in communications in college. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

Giving up his childhood dream of becoming a comedian after working one summer at Chicago’s Second City improv club, he decided that the restaurant business was in his blood. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

Being able to call on their dad and his many experienced partners for help and advice helped the pair get started on the right foot. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

“Dad is the best sounding board you could ask for, and all the partners are the best resources we could have,” Jerrod said. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

He, R.J. and their dad each got one vote during the planning stages of Hub 51, Jerrod explained. Now, Dad has eased up on supervision and relinquished his initial part-time role of working the room, instead coming in primarily as a customer about once a week. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

“He even came in one night at 11:30 with Mom because he wanted to see what the late-night scene was about,” Melman said. Closing times of 3 a.m. on Saturdays, 2 a.m. Thursdays and Fridays and midnight the rest of the week are later than those of other LEYE restaurants, which currently number 75 in a system whose estimated 2007 sales were $330 million. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

While the brothers’ goal is to have Hub 51 known first as a restaurant with good food, they acknowledge it has a large bar component, with 100 of the 250 seats located in the lounge section of the contemporary, three-room space. Management declines to specify the proportion of total sales that comes from alcohol. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

Hub 51’s food is a diverse mix of dishes the brothers personally like and not necessarily things usually found under one roof. Dinner items range from sushi rolls to a Mexican section to “two-handed sandwiches” to filet mignon and an 18-ounce, bone-in rib-eye named “The Dude.” —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

Per-person checks are averaging about $30 for dinner and $16 for lunch, Jerrod Melman said. He declined to project annual sales or divulge investment costs, saying privately held LEYE has always withheld such details. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

Hub 51’s name, a shortened version of its 51 W. Hubbard street address, also is intended to mean a “hub” for activity and communal gathering, he explained. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

“We don’t want to limit ourselves to 25-to-30-year-olds,” the younger Melman said. “Hopefully, we appeal to a lot of people and span [multiple] generations.” —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

Recorded music the brothers personally select includes popular songs from several decades. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

“There’s classic rock, some hip-hop and a little of everything,” Jerrod Melman said. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

Customers his age sometimes ask him to sit down and have a drink with them, something he and R.J. refuse to do. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

“I’m trying to set the example of how I want the staff to act,” Jerrod Melman said. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

The “house rules” the brothers list at the bottom of their dinner menu are reminiscent of the irreverent humor long displayed at LEYE’s casual dinnerhouses. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

Among Hub 51’s “rules” are: —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

“Music is at the volume we like. Ear plugs available upon request.” —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

“No espresso. Starbucks [5] down the block.” —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

“Guys, no tank tops. Trust us, we’re doing you a favor.” —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

While focusing on making Hub 51 a success, Jerrod Melman acknowledges his broader interest in LEYE’s future. —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.

“There is a wonderful team of people that are part of the next generation of Lettuce,” he said. “I’m confident my brother and I can play a role in that.” —Until they decided to open their own place, R.J. and Jerrod Melman used to see working in restaurants as mere summer jobs they could easily find in their famous father’s organization.