Tilman Fertitta and the Journey Towards Becoming One of the Wealthiest Restaurateurs on EarthApril 11, 2023 - 6 minutes read
According to one recent study, the global food service market size was valued at an impressive $2.3 trillion as of 2021. That number is expected to grow to an incredible $5.1 trillion by the end of the decade.
In recent years, many restaurateurs in the United States in particular have become almost as notable as their creations themselves. Decades ago, you’d be hard-pressed to point out at least one person who owned a restaurant or one “celebrity chef,” let alone multiple. After amassing a $5 billion restaurant empire (along with casinos and sports), Tilman Fertitta is one person who has been able to breathe that rarified air.
But he didn’t always start out as one of the most successful (not to mention one of the most wealthy) restaurateurs in the world. Once upon a time, he was just a young kid with a simple dream… and a briefcase to match.
The Life and Times of Tilman Fertitta: Breaking Things Down
Tilman himself was born in Texas in 1957. From the time that he was a young man, he always seemed destined to be an entrepreneur of some kind. It just took him a while to turn that natural business savvy into a veritable empire.
After graduating from both Texas Tech University and the University of Houston, Tilman started out selling vitamins. Then, in the 1980s, he founded and ran his own construction and development business. Here, he was so successful that he was actually behind a notable property in Galveston – the Key Largo Hotel.
But still, something wasn’t quite right with where he ended up. Most other people would be overwhelmed and overjoyed by the success. But Tilman Fertitta wanted something more.
In the late 1980s, he took his existing success and purchased a small restaurant company based out of Houston. It was called Landry’s. From there, he almost immediately began to execute a straightforward “roll-up” strategy. Flash forward just a few years and that single restaurant had grown into 522. The company behind it owned not only the restaurants but also a massive number of notable brands including Saltgrass Steak House, Del Frisco’s, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, and others.
One quality that sustained Tilman throughout the early days of his career – and that is still present to this day – is a sense of modesty. Yes, he’s aware of how successful he is and how much money is in his bank account. But while he likes to joke that he got this far because he’s the “smartest guy in the room,” in interviews he has admitted that this really isn’t the case.
What he may be is the most notable personality in the room, as his face is present on the website of just about every brand that the company owns. He’s also a noted television personality and the owner of an NBA basketball team.
Instead, Tilman just says that he does “more things better” than anybody else in the room. Whether you take that to mean that he’s a harder worker, a Jack of all trades, or some combination of these things doesn’t matter – the results speak for themselves.
At this point, it’s almost something of a misnomer to call Tilman Fertitta strictly a “restaurateur.” In addition to being the owner of Landry’s, Inc. and the Houston Rockets, he’s also the star of “Billion Dollar Buyer.” He’s been recognized by the International Hospitality Institute for his various hotels around the world. He bought his first Golden Nugget Casinos in 2005, notably in both Las Vegas and Laughlin. You’d be hard-pressed to find some type of industry that he doesn’t have his hand in, and that may very well indeed be the point.
He took the same passion that he had as a young man, fresh out of school and selling vitamins, and applied it to everything that he got involved in. When that perseverance finally paid off with the success of Landry’s, he proved that he was never one to rest on his laurels. He kept going.
He continued to build up that which he already had while also expanding into new enterprises and fields. Yes, he had significant losses along the way – the same is true of any entrepreneur. But every time he lost, he would try again. Every time he fell down, he would get back up.
In short, people have already learned a lot from the life and career of Tilman Fertitta, and they will continue to do so for years to come.