Nobu, famed for its high-end Japanese restaurants that are popular among celebrities, is in talks with developers to open a hotel in Abu Dhabi. Executives from the company are in the region this week to discuss bringing the new hotel brand to the Middle East. "We're trying to find the right partners and that's why we're here in the Middle East," said Trevor Horwell, the chief executive of Nobu Hospitality.
"Our primary focus is going to be Abu Dhabi, Doha and Beirut, where we see a huge lifestyle aspect. We've had investors come to us, so we're now going through opportunities that are being presented to us for the Middle East." The major shareholders in the Nobu brand are the actor Robert De Niro, the chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa and the Hollywood producer Meir Teper. The brand has 23 restaurants in 15 countries. These include the Nobu restaurant in the Metropolitan hotel in London and a restaurant in the Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai.
The restaurants had a prominent role in the hotels and were a major driver of business for those properties, Mr Horwell said. The company wants to build on that success and have its own hotels, which would reflect the trendy fusion designs of its restaurants. "We can actually put our own hotel up and people would come to it," said Mr Horwell. Nobu restaurants were among the highest revenue-producing eateries in the world, he said. "The Nobu customer is a very loyal customer, so automatically you have a built-in market."
The first Nobu hotel would be likely to open in the US within the next 12 to 18 months, he said. The model of extending restaurant or cafe brands to hotels had worked elsewhere, Mr Horwell said, having worked on the development of the Hard Rock hotel brand. "We've done this before, for example with Hard Rock. Hard Rock was a cafe brand that wasn't the level of what Nobu is, but we migrated that into hotels. We ended up positioning the brand at a higher level than what the cafe was. We already have a proven model."
Buddha Bar is another brand that has ventured into hotels. Nobu is aiming to have between 40 and 50 hotels worldwide, and would consider properties in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. "We see the Middle East as a core part of our development strategy," said Mr Horwell. "The great thing about Abu Dhabi and Qatar is that they're building their cities and we want to be part of that growth." The company is hoping to sign an agreement in Abu Dhabi in the next few months. It would then take about two years to develop the hotel.
"We're very selective," said Struan McKenzie, the chief operating officer of Nobu Hospitality. "One of the key mandates from Bob and Nobu is to make sure than every project we do is special and it's not necessarily about spending the world on building it." firstname.lastname@example.org