Two New Yorkers find a fortune in meatballs

Michael Chernow, co-owner of The Meatball Shop, operates what he calls a “single-focused food-item concept.” The restaurant rotates 60 types of meatballs through its menu, with diners customizing their orders.

“It’s a guest-driven restaurant, not a chef-driven one, so we turn the menu over to you,” he said. “You chose what you’d like to have. You chose your protein. You chose your starch. You chose your sauce,” said Chernow, a business expert featured on CNBC Prime reality programming.

Chernow and his childhood best friend, Daniel Holzman, who is the chef and co-owner, came up with the idea, and they have expanded The Meatball Shop to five locations in just three years.

“We opened up the doors in February 10, 2010, and we haven’t had a slow night since,” Chernow said. “And that’s the God’s honest truth.”

In total, the shops serve more than 16,000 guests a week. None of the locations take reservations, and it can be up to a two-hour wait for dinner on weekends.

Chernow said he lives well but is definitely not a millionaire, even though the businesses generate millions in sales.

“Owning a successful restaurant is incredibly gratifying, but not incredibly lucrative in the beginning,” he said.