The World's Richest Restaurateur Has A Secret: It's Not About The Food

Tilman Fertitta is barely past the first of his many morning cups of coffee and the first ten minutes of our meeting when he decides, as is his wont, to take control. As soon as I break out my tape recorder, he picks it up and places it on top of a paper cup, within wrist-snapping distance, turning it off and on during our discussion as he deems fit. Having noticed poor lighting on another floor, he dispatches a passing employee to fix it. When I ask the 55-year-old to tell me about how he got started, he admonishes me in his thick Texas twang: “I’ve overread that story. I just hate to go that far back.” So we don’t, for now, because as Fertitta later tells me, laughing, “I do whatever the f–k I want.”

Most of the time Fertitta, the 100% owner of Landry’s, wants to gobble up hospitality businesses: specifically, poorly managed, out-of-date and distressed restaurants, hotels, casinos and boardwalks that he can buy on the cheap, often right out of bankruptcy court. Fertitta then cleans house. He fires top executives, closes failing locations, revamps existing ones and moves management to Landry’s headquarters in Houston, where he can keep an eye on everyone. “When we buy somebody, we cut the head off,” he says. “We keep the operators who are looking–I hate to use this term–they’re looking for a leader. We lead very well. And we immediately spend money on them and make them better. Everybody wants to be led.

“Except for me,” he adds. “I want to lead.” Read More

Posted on August 24, 2012 and filed under Restaurant Innovators.