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05/16/2022

Nobu Hospitality’s CEO Trevor Horwell Shares Company Update

Company expands into residential housing, continues to build hotel brand with F&B and social media.
Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor (Hotels)
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Nobu Hospitality Guest Bedroom

During a recent interview with Nobu Hospitality, CEO Trevor Horwell shared that the company is extending its range of operations beyond restaurants and hotels into residential developments. The very first of Nobu’s branded residences are due to open in Toronto, Canada, in a landmark site comprising 660 apartments.

A growing number of home buyers are choosing to live in branded communities, which led us to launch our first Nobu residences in Toronto,” Horwell explains. “The residences will embody the Nobu spirit in both design and attitude, offering an exclusive curated lifestyle. These units sold out in just three months.”

The site, in Toronto’s entertainment district, has been developed by local real estate firms Madison Group, Westdale Properties, and Alder Investments. Construction began in 2018 with opening expected later this year or early 2023.  The apartments are understood to have sold for US$700 per sq ft which has now risen to US$1,100 per sq ft as units change hands on the assignment market.

The base of Nobu Residences Toronto retains the brick façade of the original art deco Pilkington glass factory, housing a restaurant on the lower floors, while two 45-storey towers rise above with the 120-bedroom hotel occupying the upper floors of the west tower.

“We’re now developing residences in Los Cabos, Mexico; São Paulo, Brazil; and Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia with more in the pipeline,” Horwell adds. “Our aim is to exemplify the spirit of what Nobu has come to stand for – a place to relax in unpretentious luxury, whilst still feeling like you are part of something special.”

HOTEL BUSINESS REMAINS IMPORTANT

With 13 hotels open and another 13 in the pipeline across five continents, the global pandemic appears to have done little to hold back Nobu’s expansion programme.

There is no denying that the pandemic hit the hospitality industry hard, and we are no different to other businesses,” Horwell observes. “However, we have very strong brand loyalty and were encouraged by the numbers throughout Covid at our new hotels (Chicago, London Portman Square and Warsaw opened during 2020) as well as the existing portfolio. Our business model is one built for the long term and so, whilst the macro-environment sustained hits, our long-term planning wasn’t affected.”

When it comes to forging partnerships with developers and owners, Horwell said: “We’re a management company, and we’re a brand, so it’s important we work with developers and owners who positively echo what we stand for, who complement and adapt to our ethos, and who share our philosophy for luxury hospitality.”

The first Nobu hotel opened in 2013 as a boutique property within Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, and the partnership with Caesars Entertainment has since continued with hotels in Atlantic City and New Orleans as well as a third restaurant in Las Vegas.

Similarly, Nobu has partnered with Eden Roc Miami Beach, another iconic resort with a glamourous history. Designed by architect Morris Lapidus in 1955, Eden Roc instantly became a hotspot for Hollywood’s elite at the time.

F&B OPERATIONS

While many international hotel brands struggle to achieve profitable food and beverage operations, Nobu’s cuisine is the foundation of the company’s success. The viability of a restaurant is the prerequisite for the opening of its hotels, with the group only needing to convert 10-15% of its diners into hotel guests in order to fill its rooms.

Horwell explained: “First and foremost, we look for a destination that Nobu restaurant customers will thrive in. Around 70% - 80% of our restaurant business is from locals. Then it’s about the partners. We go into a hotel partnership thinking long term, and we are not interested in short term relationships. The brand, reputation and the trust we have embodied is what hotels owners look for to stand out from the crowd. More importantly, we deliver consistency of recurrent, solid financial returns.  We work well with hotel owners to adapt to their needs and focus on their goals and hence why the brand has grown so quickly.”

SOCIAL MEDIA & TECHNOLOGY

To engage with customers, social media and technology play important roles. Norwell said: “Social platforms are an essential part of our strategy for connecting with our guests, but instead of viewing it as a promotional transaction, we view it as a chance to build connections.”

In 2021 Nobu partnered with hotel technology specialists Alliants to launch an app that connects users to the group’s global network of hotels, restaurants and residences and provides exclusive content and experiences.

The Nobu app offers guests a platform to book guest rooms and tables in one place, check-in and check-out, offer a mobile key, and provide up-to-date local information. Crucially the app also allows customers to chat with team members on their preferred messaging channel, whether SMS, Whatsapp or FB Messenger. Horwell said: “The trust we have built with our customers is of the utmost importance, so being able to build an engaging conversation on a personal level is key.”

Underlining the importance of delivering a personalised service in the post-pandemic era, Horwell added: “Personalised service is at the heart of everything we do. It is about making our guests feel at home. We recognize them in the Nobu way and foster personal connections with them. It is this personal service and connection with our guests and repeat guests as well as providing a memorable experience overall that means they remain loyal to the brand and our destinations.”