It looks like being a super fussy chef-driven restaurant is a disadvantage if you want to make big bucks the restaurant world. If a list of the top-grossing 100 independent restaurants from Restaurant Business Magazine is to be believed, pricey crowd-pleasers like Joe's Stone Crab in Miami — which apparently earned over $35 million in 2013 — and NYC steakhouse Smith & Wollenksy (which earned over $25 million in 2013) are where people actually want to eat. The real winner is spendy Asian bistro concept Tao, whose Las Vegas outlet took the top spot on the list, allegedly grossing $64,600,000 in sales in 2013 alone. A NYC location of Tao racked in nearly $23 million in sales to take seventh place.
Many of chef Mario Batali's restaurants, including Del Posto in NYC and Carnevino in Las Vegas, also found a spot on the list. As did human lava lamp Guy Fieri's New York City catastrophe Guy's American Kitchen & Bar which apparently made $16 million on donkey sauce last year.
These numbers could all be made up, however. An editor at Restaurant Business Magazine revealed to Eater via email that many of the sales figures were self-reported on a survey sent to independent restaurateurs by the publication. Furthermore, figures for 70 out of the 100 restaurants on the list were estimated from data pulled from "public information, comparable concepts, local market details and other factors." Even restaurateur Nick Kokonas is calling bullshit on the list: He tweeted that he believed it was "wildly flawed." He added in another tweet that most restaurants don't divulge that kind of info and he knows of many restaurants from Chicago alone that are missing on the list.