Photo: sbisson, Flickr
The R&I list breaks it down so we can compare oranges to oranges. There's total sales, the size of the average dinner check, number of meals served, and seats per square footage. And when you look at the numbers, you can see that Tao Las Vegas isn't the top moneymaker by just a little. Its 2009 sales revenues are more than double its nearest competitor -- which, sadly, was the recently shuttered Tavern on the Green, despite the fact that the average dinner check at Tao was only five bucks higher than the Tavern's, and Tao actually seated only about a quarter the number of diners that the Tavern did. So far, the venerable Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach is hanging on at third place -- with numbers strikingly similar to the Tavern's.
Tao Las Vegas was clearly the star for 2009, but to state the glaringly obvious, it was a tough year for restaurants in general. R&I reports that the combined food-and-beverage sales last year were $1.37 billion, which sounds impressive until you consider that 2008's sales were $1.52 billion. That's a precipitous drop, which may explain why the number-two-grossing restaurant in the nation still had trouble staying afloat. The restaurant industry is holding its collective breath, counting on better days ahead -- and a healthier list from R&I next year.