‘Gilmore Girls’: Realistically, How Much Would Luke Danes Have Made as a Small Business Owner?

Luke Danes wasn’t supposed to be a huge part of Gilmore Girls. As the years passed, his role grew, and he quickly became a fan favorite. Still, fans never learned a ton about Luke and his business prowess. The surly diner owner seemed to be doing fine financially, but was that due to a successful business or frugality? Realistically, how much would Luke have made from Luke’s Diner?

When did Luke open Luke’s Diner?

Luke’s Diner was a bustling and established business when Gilmore Girls began in 2000. According to “Written in the Stars”, the third episode of season 5, Lorelai had been going to the diner for eight years. So fans can assume that Luke opened the business before 1997.

Jess Mariano and Luke Danes sit in the window of Luke's Diner in 'Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life' Jess Mariano and Luke Danes in 'Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life'
Jess Mariano and Luke Danes in ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ | Netflix

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Luke inherited the building that housed his business after his father died. While Luke never stated exactly when William Danes died, fans ascertain that he had died several years before Gilmore Girls began. Luke decided to turn his father’s hardware business into a diner and enlisted the help of his mother’s friends to get the job done. Luke’s mother died years before his father’s passing.

So, roughly how much would Luke Danes have earned from Luke’s Diner?

Most small businesses fail within the first year, and the food business is especially brutal. Luke’s, however, managed to thrive. Luke’s small diner had 10 tables and about 10 seats at the counter. At full capacity, Luke’s could accommodate about 50 patrons. On the Line estimates that the average table turns about 6 times in an average workday. If the average ticket at Luke’s was $20, he was likely making $16,800 per month or 201,600 per year, plus tips. That didn’t go all to him. Luke was likely only earning around $60,000 per year from the diner when you factor in his small staff and food overhead.

The Diner wasn’t Luke’s only revenue stream, though. The grumpy diner owner also owned the building next door and rented the storefront out to Taylor Doose. Storefront rental prices vary by location, but the ice cream shop was located in an area with a lot of foot traffic, meaning it would garner a reasonable rental fee. According to Small Business, on average, someone like Taylor could have expected to pay roughly $20 per square foot per year. The average retail space is about 2,000 square feet. Taylor would have paid Luke about $40,000 per year or about $3,000 per month to rent the storefront.

Could Luke Danes afford his lifestyle?

Luke was rather frugal. He didn’t have expensive hobbies, he didn’t enjoy luxurious meals, and he didn’t spend a ton of money on clothes. His truck was an older model, and he spent most of his adult life living in a small apartment above the building that he inherited from his father. All told, Luke likely had very few bills outside of his business. In short, not only could he afford his lifestyle, but he managed to save most of his money.

Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore and Scott Patterson as Luke Danes in 'Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life'
Lauren Graham and Scott Patterson in ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ | Netflix

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While Luke didn’t like anything particularly fancy, there were moments when he made it clear that he had plenty of money to throw around. In season 3, he purchased the building next to Luke’s diner on a whim. Luke proved that he had a solid nest egg in season 4 when he unceremoniously lent Lorelai $30,000 to complete renovations on the Dragonfly Inn. He further flaunted his wealth in season 5 when he purchased the Twickham House, hoping that he and Lorelai would get married and have children.