Salt Bae Is Still Here, And He's Expanding His Empire

The eccentric owner of Nusr-Et wants to entertain restaurant guests and airport travelers alike.

Cited for indecent exposure on Instagram, sued for copyright infringement, and impersonated on Saturday Night Live—aside from sprinkling salt with an oddly bent hand flourish, these are the types of shenanigans Nusret Gökçe, aka Salt Bae, is known for. The chef and owner of the Nusr-Et chain of steakhouses is making headlines as often as he makes gold-plated steaks, though he has kept a relatively low profile since getting the cold shoulder from Lionel Messi at the World Cup final earlier this year. Amidst all his controversies, however, Salt Bae has managed to keep his restaurants humming, and Restaurant Dive reports he plans to expand his business even further in the coming years.

Salt Bae’s restaurant empire, explained

Gökçe currently has 28 locations of Nusr-Et Steakhouse around the world, with seven restaurants in U.S. cities including Miami, Las Vegas, New York City, and Beverly Hills. The rest are located across the globe in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, London, Turkey, and Mykonos. Restaurant Dive reports that from 2018 to 2022, sales for Salt Bae's company grew 57% globally, reaching $225 million, and increased 38% in the U.S., reaching $61.7 million in 2022. Clearly he was able to vault off the viral fame achieved by a video where he's sprinkling salt in his signature fashion, his arm high above the plate.

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Salt Bae's growth plan for his restaurants is to reach 40 locations by 2025. In order to reach that goal, he wants to update the current flagship locations, outfitting them with dance areas and lounges for entertainment, which suggests that the chef hopes to build a lifestyle brand as much as a restaurant chain. Part of what draws customers to Salt Bae's restaurants is the spectacle of Salt Bae himself, so at his many restaurants he routinely cuts, seasons, and serves guests their meat tableside, sometimes serving it directly into their mouths. Other servers also perform small shows in front of dining guests as well.

Steakhouses are thriving in 2023

Showmanship and club vibes aside, this is a prime time to be in the steak business, especially in the United States. The American Customer Satisfaction Index's Restaurant Report for 2023 showed Americans are loving steakhouses, whether casual or high-end. The report looked at consumer satisfaction across various industries, and within the category of full-service restaurants Outback Steakhouse, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Texas Roadhouse all ranked in the top five.

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Quality meat and entertainment are also the dual focus of Salt Bae's other restaurant concept, Saltbae Burger. The burger brand launched in 2022 with a brick-and-mortar location in New York City, but that closed in June of this year. After that, Salt Bae chose to bring the burgers onto the menus of two existing Nusr-Et Steakhouses in New York.

Where Salt Bae is headed next

Salt Bae's next move is to bring his burgers into airports. Nusr-Et's COO, Al Avci, told Restaurant Dive that the company already has a restaurant planned for Istanbul International Airport in the fourth quarter of this year. Locations are also being explored in cities where Nusr-Et already has a restaurant location, such as Miami, Ibiza, San Paulo, Paris, Mexico City, Milan, and Egypt.

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For all his ups and downs, Salt Bae is a globally recognized figure and it seems the chef is wasting no time cashing in on that global notoriety.

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