Nobu Hotels to grow its portfolio slowly over the coming years
Internationally renowned Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa made himself a household name with his famous Nobu restaurants. But many people may not know that this upscale restaurant chain also has its hands in the hospitality industry. We take a look inside Nobu Hotels and their plans for the future.
Restaurants first, hotels second
“We don’t normally do a hotel unless we think that a Nobu Restaurant can do well in that location. That’s very important because what we want to do first and foremost is to make sure there is a draw for locals, and that really comes down to the Nobu Restaurant.” This is Trevor Horwell’s, CEO of Nobu Hospitality, take on the relationship between Nobu’s hotel presence and their eponymous restaurants, which made the name so famous. While for many hotels, the restaurant is secondary to the lodgings they offer, it is rarely overlooked, and hotels often try to boost the popularity of their restaurants by bringing well known chefs on board to attract clientele. Well, Nobu Hotels is doing it a little differently. Nobu operates 38 restaurants across the globe, but currently there are only eight Nobu Hotels in total, with a plan to open eight more in the near future.
Horwell says that his vision for Nobu Hotels revolves around the fact that the client base is not coming from very far away. Most of the people who dine in the restaurants are not traveling, but are actually living in the destination of the hotel. “It’s not like a tourist restaurant. We like to attract the locals. We want that built-in customer,” he says. The reason that Nobu Hotels can do this is because they have already established their brand long ago. He feels that a lot of hotels are missing a trick when it comes to food and beverage, and should be leading with this angle to increase their client base. “We are defined by the restaurant, in a way,” he says. “We play to our strengths. If you look at the hotel business today, the majority of hotels are suffering because they don’t lead with food and beverage. They don’t have strong food-and-beverage concepts, and a lot of hotels are losing money. Today, we play to our strengths because that is one area that we do very, very well, and we bring in locals.”
Slow, steady growth
Because of the unique nature of Nobu Hotels’ model, the growth explosion that a lot of nascent hotel brands are looking for doesn’t really apply in this scenario. Far from wanting to grow the brand to 500 hotels over the next five years, Horwell is going instead for the slow, steady option, with a view to increasing the brand’s portfolio to about 70 or 80 hotels. This will be achieved by opening around three or four new properties a year, a small increment for an international brand. He also sees the uniqueness of Nobu as putting them in a position where their competition is undefined. “I look at our hotels not as luxury,” he says. “I look at them as special. I like us to be special, in each location we’re in. ‘Luxury’ is a word that’s used too much in terms of ‘everything is luxury today.’ For us, we’re ‘special.’”
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