Jimmy Buffett's 'Margaritaville' is big business

The flip-flop-loving songsmith has built a highly lucrative and ever-expanding empire based on that simple tune.

By Aimee Picchi May 30, 2013 8:17AM

A Margaritaville restaurant inside The Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati, OH, on February 26, 2013 (© Al Behrman/AP)Sure, "Margaritaville" has been parodied on Comcast's (CMCSA) NBC show "Saturday Night Live" and is voted as the most hated song ever by some, but songwriter Jimmy Buffett is strumming his guitar all the way to the bank. 

That's because the song ranks as the most lucrative ever, thanks to Buffett's business savvy, notes BloombergBusinessweek.

His privately owned Margaritaville Holdings has spawned a business empire of 27 themed restaurants, as well as branded gear such as the $299.99 Explorer Cordless Frozen Concoction Maker. When might one need such an item? "Whip up frozen drinks right on your boat. Take it tailgating. Throw a bash at the beach," Buffett's site instructs. 

Behind the image of a laid-back beach life, Margaritaville has big ambitions. No less than New Jersey Gov, Chris Christie opened the newest themed attraction in Atlantic City just last week. The $35 million complex not only features two restaurants but a beach-themed casino as well. 

Margaritaville doesn't release financial data, but the Orlando Business Journal reported that the company was earning about $100 million annually in 2007. Since that report, Buffett's anthem to flip-flops and porch swings has only grown larger as several more restaurants have opened in locations ranging from Honolulu to Nashville. 

At least one other music star has sought to emulate Buffett: Country rocker Toby Keith has opened his third I Love This Bar & Grill, based on his 2003 song "I Love This Bar."

"If there is anything on the same scale as a 'Margaritaville,' it’s not a song -- it's a motion picture," Robert Brauneis, a professor of intellectual property at the George Washington University Law School, told Businessweek. "When you're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, you have to think in terms of 'Star Wars,' 'Winnie the Pooh' or 'Transformers.' That’s probably in the same order of magnitude."

But it's more the lifestyle Buffett is selling than the song itself that's responsible for its earnings power. The tune didn't make it into the top 10 of the BBC's "Richest Songs in the World," which places "Happy Birthday to You" at the No. 1 earnings spot, Businessweek notes.

But Buffett has surely parlayed a catchy number into an American aspiration, allowing fans to kick back and put themselves in his flip-flops during a visit to one of his restaurants. No wonder consumers can't resist paying up. 

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.

More on moneyNOW

May 30, 2013 2:04PM
If I were to follow a Buffett in finance it would be Jimmy not Warren. A lifestyle I am comfortable with, music I enjoy, food that is decent, and profits on top of it all? Oh Heck yeah!!!!

Flip Flops rule!!!
May 30, 2013 12:08PM

Marguaritaville - The anthem to tequila cocktails! 


Hearing the song occasionally is a good thing.  It conjures up a happy laid-back feeling although the lyrics are actually quite depressing (drinking it up cuz he is to blame for losing his babe).  Country music theme with a reggae presentation!


Marguaritaville restaurants are predictable with their food in much the same fashion as Applebee's et al.  It's not fine dining but its not bad.  And when you are on vacation, have some fun!  That's what Marguaritaville is all about!!   Long live the Parrotheads!!   (as for me, my Patron is straight up, no ice)  Hang Loose!

May 30, 2013 11:52AM
Been to the one on Oahu in Waikiki many times and its a really cool set up, but its all tourists. On a good note tourists are out to have a good time so everybody is really happy and fun.
May 30, 2013 12:22PM
I went to one in Cancun and it wasn't bad. Geared for tourists. Buffet is one smart businessman.
May 30, 2013 1:47PM
Had a great time at the Las Vegas location! Good food and drinks
May 30, 2013 1:49PM
Jimmy is one smart parrot and business. I been six of his location. I lot of food and great drink NEED IT GOING
May 30, 2013 4:44PM
We were at the Key West one 10 years ago.  It was fun and festive.  Love Jimmy Buffett.  More power to him for having the energy to do what he loves!
May 30, 2013 4:10PM

The Key West location is just a pain.  Last September was a joke, getting waited on for food or drink was just plain not happening.  However all the rest I have been to Caymans, Jamacia, Cozumel and others the service and food and drink are awsome.  I love this place called Margaritaville.


May 31, 2013 11:00AM
Jimmy I love your music, but your Concert are to damn expensive for your humble parrot head, I have all your Albums, so I can get into the flip flop mood, with my IPOD and a cold Land Shark,  Peace out,,,  PS I tried to get free tickets for your concert at Orange beach, sorry to say us locals did not get a chance.......  Kid Rock putting a concert on for 20 bucks as well as Garth Brooks did many years ago.....  So next time you play in Pensacola, give a humble Parrot head a break lower you ticket place... 
Jun 4, 2013 12:42AM

It's the volcano Nacho's that keep me coming back. Yum!


May 30, 2013 10:03PM
The location in the French quarter was filthy  what a mess wouldn't eat or drink there.  That's saying a lot  for bourbon street
Jul 4, 2013 10:55AM
Where was the first Mararitaville? My guess is Key west nearly 30 years ago.
May 31, 2013 11:09AM
**** that song but congrats to Jimmy.............
May 30, 2013 11:28AM
went to the Key West location years ago and it was awefull. The service was terrible and the food was horrible.
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