The 10 Most Influential Restaurant Groups and Enterprises in 2018

By: Karen DeVincent-Reinbold

7 Minute Read

Jun 06, 2018

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Which restaurant group wields the most power in the dining world?

Everyone knows the right answer is your mom’s kitchen (hi, Mom!). But if you're looking to expand your palate, here’s a directory of America's most influential restaurant groups and enterprises in 2018. Prepare to get hungry.

Want to see what's making waves in the industry? Download the 2019 Restaurant Success Report to see what 1000+ diners want this year – and how 1000+ restaurateurs are working to make it happen.

Invest Hospitality

Why? Because of its world-famous chef.

restaurant groups

Ever heard of Joël Robuchon? Of course you have. He is the most-starred chef of all time, clocking in with a whopping 31 Michelin stars.

His restaurants, L'ATELIER de Joël Robuchon, Joël Robuchon Restaurant, and La Boutique de Joël Robuchon all fall under the Invest Hospitality Group.

The mind of Invest Hospitality Group's world-renowned chef has invented (and certainly influenced) some of the most-enjoyed meals in the history of mankind; thousands of aspiring chefs want to be the next Joël. For decades, he and his group have had an undebatable influence in the restaurant industry.

Bonus: L'ATELIER de Joël Robuchon in NYC uses Toast! Learn more about this product here


Why? Because it's the biggest.

influential restaurant groups

Ok, no surprises here: McDonald’s is large and in charge.

According to the 2017 Forbes 2000, Mickey D’s clocks in at number 215 on the list of the world's biggest public companies . While they aren’t number one overall, they are indeed the highest ranking restaurant group with Starbucks – the second biggest restaurant group – trailing far behind at #370. Wielding its size and power for decades, McDonald's continues to have an enormous influence in menu engineering, franchise strategy, and efficiency.

Maison Boulud Group

Why? It has the best overall ratings.

restaurant groups

Maison Boulud Group’s leader Daniel Boulud boasts some of the best restaurant ratings in the U.S.

From being listed on Business Insider’s Best Restaurants in America, to earning a solid 4.8 from Zagat, to being awarded two Michelin stars, to receiving thousands upon thousands of near-perfect ratings on OpenTable, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Maison Boulud’s Daniel has a lot to brag about.

This restaurant group's focus on delighting their guests keeps them on top – and is inspiring restaurant operators everywhere to aspire to achieve such prestige in guest satisfaction.

Compass Rose Team

Why? It's got the most buzz.

top restaurant groups

If you live in D.C., it’s all about Maydan. If you don’t live in D.C. and you follow restaurant news, you have certainly heard all about Maydan in 2018.

Served up by the Compass Rose Team, Maydan might just be the most talked about restaurant of the year. This in part might have something to do with the fact that Michelle Obama stopped in this January.

Why is it so influential? After the Obama appearance, outlets like Food and Wine, Tasting Table, Forbes, and Eater couldn’t stop talking about the restaurant’s menu, which explores flavors from Tangier to Tehran, Batumi to Beirut. Following suit, American restaurants are doing everything they can to attract those with presidential prestige to their establishments after seeing Maydan's success.

Daniel Patterson Group

Why? They're the trendsetters.

top restaurant groups

If you live in Oakland or around the Almeda/Bay Area, you know all about Chef Nigel Jones’ Kingston 11 – Jones and his team are credited by many for making the Jamaican food trend that we’re seeing pop up all over the U.S. a hit.

If you can’t get enough of Kingston 11, Jones partnered with Daniel Patterson Group this year to open one of 2018’s most anticipated restaurants: Kaya. According to Eater, “the cooking at Kaya might be a bit more ‘elevated,’ as he’s choosing the best Bay Area ingredients, but treating them the way he would if he were in Jamaica, where he grew up.”

In a time when San Francisco restaurants are closing like crazy, Patterson's restaurant group is a trailblazer in standing out from the pack. And with nearly one in five restaurants failing within the first year, restaurants are looking to successful ventures like Daniel Patterson Group for inspiration.


Why?  It's the biggest pizza restaurant group in the world.

top restaurant groups

After narrowly edging out ahead of Pizza Hut's 2017 sales, Domino's officially became the biggest pizza company in the world. It's not hard to see why – as we talked about in our 10 Restaurant Stocks to Watch in 2018 blog, they've obsessed over delighting their customers in recent years with technological innovation.

Domino's is showing that consumers want their pizza experience to be customized, immediate, and tied into their phones. As they make these guest aspirations a reality, they're sure to influence their competitors' business decisions this year.

Free Resource: Download the 2019 Restaurant Success Report


Why? It's emerging like no other.

top restaurant groups

Is there anything better than a juicy, flame-grilled burger? How about an organic one stuffed to the brim with all of your favorite toppings that doesn't break the bank.

You can thank Bareburger for helping usher in the “burgers with a mission” trend about 10 years ago, and it’s working.

Bareburger today boasts 44 locations and is one of the biggest emerging chains in the U.S.

Bonus: Bareburger uses Toast! Learn more about this product here

White Castle

Why? It's been operating for the longest amount of time.

top restaurant groups

While you might think our friends at McDonald’s would appear twice on this list, White Castle is actually the oldest restaurant chain in the U.S.

The chain has been pumping out fun-sized sliders since 1921. And, they are just as relevant as ever. While no new Harold and Kumar movies are on the horizon, the chain is keeping it fresh with Opening Ceremony-designed uniforms that you can only buy for hundreds of dollars if you aren’t a White Castle employee. Really.

With so many restaurants in the country, many look to the ones that have stood the test of time to see how to be adaptable, guest-centric, employee-obsessed, and successful. This is exactly why we recognized White Castle CEO Lisa Ingram on our list of the Best Restaurant CEOs.


Why? It's got the trailblazing business lead.

restaurant enterprise

Boston’s Trade is certainly one of the hottest restaurants in town thanks to its chef-owner Jody Adams, who was recently recognized as an inductee for the 2018 James Beard Foundation's Who’s Who of Food & Beverage.

Trade is part of the Trade Restaurant Group (which also includes Porto and Saloniki), where you can also find restaurant staff using Toast! Trade's brand recognition and success make them undeniably influential.


Why? It has the most locations.

restaurant groups

Subway's massive worldwide success has paved the way for the modern fast casual restaurant. Their build-your-own meal in a matter of minutes assembly line model of serving food has been adopted by Chipotle, Sweetgreen, Pieology, and more in almost every style of cuisine imaginable.

As the growth of fast casual continues, we can all point our fingers towards Subway (and its 25,000+ locations) as one of the founding fathers of this concept of fast casual, which is still gaining traction in 2018.

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