“Last man standing” Dream looking to enter Europe: David Kuperberg [Video]

by | Jun 30, 2019 | Experts

Creators of legendary hotels frequented by the rich and famous, Dream is taking its F&B-forward properties and trademark energy to Belgium and beyond, says the group’s Chief Development Officer David Kuperberg

In a world where independent hotels are being acquired left, right and center, Dream is one of the last men standing. From New York to Hollywood, from Nashville very soon to Palm Springs, the group has built a reputation of creating an unparalleled energy in their avant-garde hotels. 

Now, the group plans to continue taking their bold, vibrant, F&B-driven success story from the United States to Thailand to… Belgium!

Dream Hotel Group’s Chief Development Officer David Kuperberg has expertise in taking off-the-map areas and turning them into destinations for new cultural scenes that are full of rewarding opportunities. 

Kuperberg, in fact, has a track record of growing a successful portfolio of lifestyle hotels which include the Dream, Chatwal, Time, and Unscripted and brands. He was previously the head of development for Virgin Hotels.

Kuperberg started his hospitality career in 2004 with Wyndham as Senior Director of Mergers and Acquisitions. He oversaw the acquisition of Ramada International from Marriott, resulting in the acquisition of over 200 international hotels and launched Wyndham’s international hotel business.

On the sidelines of TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Los Angeles, Kuperberg spoke to TOPHOTELNEWS on the USPs of Dream thus far and how he foresees the next 30 to 40 years of the unique, independent brand.

How Dream got the early-mover advantage in boutique hotels

Kuperberg: We’ve been doing this for 30 years; we got into lifestyle space in 1999. Besides W and what Ian Schrager was doing, we were one of the first movers. A lot of these folks have come up since. Even the Marriotts and Hiltons, big players — they finally caught up to what we were doing 20-plus years ago. For us, it’s always been about creating energy and creating a destination. We don’t do things small. When we come in with a Dream hotel, we like multiple food and beverage outlets. We like to see how to create energy throughout the hotel. 

Our goal is that if a guest stays at our hotel and don’t have to leave. If they’re coming for three days, they have multiple choices. We don’t want to be all in their face. We want somebody to explore the hotel and find these little, interesting things on day two or day three: “Oh, I didn’t realize there was a bar downstairs, behind this closet,” you know?

Highlights of Dream in downtown New York & Hollywood

Kuperberg: At Dream Downtown New York, we have an uber VIP room called the Electric Room. You have to get there through the alley, next to the most unexpected places; and people line up. We like those kinds of surprises. 

In LA, we created one of the hottest hotels in Hollywood and so the energy level has been fantastic. Really bringing what we have done in New York so successfully and bringing it to Hollywood, has been a huge success for us. 

Getting to grips with Dream’s eye-watering 50-50 F&B to rooms revenue 

Kuperberg: I think the biggest challenge for us as we expand out of New York, and working with partners around the world, is what we do is so unique. The amount of food and beverage revenue we create at our hotels is unlike anywhere else. We do 50-50 F&B to rooms revenue and not many people do that. So, to get investors and lenders to understand those kind of numbers is difficult. 

The good news is we have a track record now. And people are getting used to seeing the numbers that we put up. Dream Downtown New York revenues went from $30 million in F&B seven years ago to $38 million today. They said that’s only going to last a year or two. Well, you know what, it keeps increasing every year. 

International expansion: living the Dream from Thailand to Belgium

Kuperberg: We have two international hotels open right now over in Thailand: one in Bangkok, and one Phuket. 

We’ve signed our first hotel in mainland Europe for Unscripted Hotels brand, doing a very cool lifestyle eco-resort on the border of France and Belgium. We did a deal with Prince Edward of Belgium. It’s on land his family has owned for over 700 years. The project will be in three phases. The first phase is 144 of these free-standing eco-lodges. Having our group’s legendary food and beverage, energy, and bringing in electronic music festivals on weekends and having different activities all within the lifestyle space is why he came to us. 

How’s Dream’s independent status makes it one of the “last men standing” 

Kuperberg: We have the benefit of being one of the last men standing. Look at the competition — the Two Roads of the world they got bought, sbe got bought. So, when we’re out there talking to development partners, I think there’s always going to be those developers who don’t want to be with one of the big brands. And the fact that we’re one of the only few left is really an advantage for us. So we’ve never been busier. 

We have a way to go. We’re in New York, LA, Nashville, but we need to be in San Francisco, we need to be in London. There’s a lot of key gateway cities that we’re looking at and are currently in our pipeline. We’ve been doing this for 30 years and I think the goal is to do it for another 30 years, 40 years and beyond. I think we like our independence right now. 

Thoughts on the TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR

Kuperberg: It’s been fantastic. First of all, it’s great to see some old friends. I know a lot of the folks in that room so it’s just nice to always catch up with them. And then, to meet new friends. Also, I love the format. It’s a nice balance of networking and presentations — and, actually, very interesting presentations.

David Kuperberg was a delegate at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Los Angeles 2019. To attend, address or sponsor our boutique hospitality networking events around the world, contact TOPHOTELPROJECTS Head of Global Events & Conferences Kayley van der Velde.

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