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updated: 7/19/2012 5:02 AM

Bob Chinn's named top-grossing restaurant in the U.S.

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  • Bob Chinn, owner of Bob Chinn's Crab House in Wheeling, which has been named the top-grossing restaurant in the U.S.

       Bob Chinn, owner of Bob Chinn's Crab House in Wheeling, which has been named the top-grossing restaurant in the U.S.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Bob Chinn's Crab House, on Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling, has been named America's top-grossing restaurant.

       Bob Chinn's Crab House, on Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling, has been named America's top-grossing restaurant.
    DANIEL WHITE | Staff Photographer

  • GEORGE LECLAIRE/gleclaire@dailyherald.comHundreds of diners eat in the dining room at Bob Chinn's Crab House in Wheeling.

      GEORGE LECLAIRE/gleclaire@dailyherald.comHundreds of diners eat in the dining room at Bob Chinn's Crab House in Wheeling.

  • Bob Chinn's Crab House in Wheeling.

       Bob Chinn's Crab House in Wheeling.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

Bob Chinn's Crab House, one of the area's most recognizable spots and an anchor of Wheeling's Restaurant Row, received national recognition on Wednesday when Forbes Magazine named it the highest-grossing restaurant in the nation.

Situated on Milwaukee Avenue, Chinn's brings in an estimated $24 million in annual revenue, not including alcohol sales, according to the Forbes study.

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"I feel so excited about this, for me, a little businessman, to get this kind of recognition," Bob Chinn said.

Chinn, 89, spends half his year in Hawaii, but is in the restaurant seven days a week when he is home in Northbrook.

The secret to Chinn's success though, isn't that much of a secret, he said. "The basics: very reasonable prices, fantastic food and great, friendly service."

It also might have something to do with the size of the dining room. Forbes calls Bob Chinn's the "Disneyland of seafood restaurants," as the location serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and can seat 700 people -- 900 including the two bars -- and serves 2,500 meals on an average day.

With 3,000 pounds of fresh seafood flown in every day from Alaska, Hawaii and New Zealand, Bob Chinn's has been an institution in Wheeling since 1982.

"Just mentioning the name 'Bob Chinn's' brings a smile to people's faces in town," said Dru Garcia, business development coordinator for the village of Wheeling. "Not only is there a national draw, but it's a regular stop for locals," she said.

When "American Idol" finalist Haley Reinhart came back to Wheeling for her hometown visit in 2011, part of the celebration that was broadcast was at Bob Chinn's.

Garcia said other local celebrities, including Bulls legend Scottie Pippen, have been seen at Bob Chinn's recently.

In 2007, cast members of the Discovery Channel reality show "Deadliest Catch" visited the restaurant, which often served fish caught on the show.

With more than 300 employees, Bob Chinn's is one of Wheeling's largest employers and a major revenue generator for the village, Garcia said.

"It's really the recognized standard-bearer for Restaurant Row," Garcia said of the reflection the restaurant has on Wheeling. "Their brand and ours are definitely related. They bring a positive brand recognition to our community."

Chinn said he originally picked Wheeling for his restaurant because he wanted to entice customers from both the city and the Northern suburbs, but without having to pay North Shore real estate prices. He said the location has been very good to him.

Even through the economic downturn, Chinn said the Crab House is still booked on weekends, though people are spending less per person.

Although Bob Chinn's has earned national recognition over the years, Bob said it's still a family business as several of his children and grandchildren work there.

With his 90th birthday next year, Chinn said he isn't looking to retire anytime soon.

"I enjoy what I do," he said. "It's the challenge to be the biggest and the best. Whatever I do, I have a passion to be a winner."

Chinn's: Bob, 89, says he's not ready to retire

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