The New York Times has an article “Jimmy Buffett’s ‘Margaritaville’ Is a State of Mind, and an Empire” (photo: Jimmy Buffett with the Margaritaville resort chief executive John Cohlan in Hollywood, Fla)
His newest showstopper, a 17-story hotel near Miami, has three pools, a full-service spa and eight restaurants, including a seriously upscale steakhouse. That electric blue sculpture in the lobby? You’d swear it was by Jeff Koons.
Forget the ville. This is a Margarita World. “People are always shocked when they find out how big we’ve gotten,” Mr. Buffett said recently over lunch, grinning and splashing Tabasco on a modified Cobb salad. “We just kept quietly doing our thing. Not saying much. And now — bam! — here we are.”
Margaritaville, with its themed restaurants (erupting volcanoes, boat-shaped booths), started as a tropical cousin to T.G.I. Friday’s. Through trial and error, Mr. Buffett and a partner, John Cohlan, have since expanded Margaritaville Holdings to include four booming divisions: lodging, alcohol, licensing and media. Now, as they pursue growth for the first time overseas, where Mr. Buffett has a much softer fan base, they are trying to recast Margaritaville as a broad, aspirational brand — the Ralph Lauren of leisurely escape, if you will.
The goal is a fully formed ecosystem. Last year, an estimated 15 million people ate at one of Mr. Buffett’s 67 restaurants or stayed at one of his seven hotels and time-share resorts.
Margaritaville’s signature restaurant chain is expanding quickly — it will soon push into California for the first time, opening at Universal Studios Hollywood — but a spinoff series of restaurants in the Midwest called Cheeseburger in Paradise has struggled. Margaritaville sold its Cheeseburger stake in 2005 and, since then, roughly half the locations have closed as the brand was lobbed between owners.