How The Nobu Brand Perfected Effortless Luxury Around The World

By Bridget Arsenault

It took a move to Beverly Hills for chef Nobu Matsuhisa to perfect his Peruvian-influenced Japanese cuisine. More than three decades later, and now owned by Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro, and film producer Meir Teper, Nobu isn’t so much a brand as an institution (the buzzing restaurant inside Caesars Palace Las Vegas is capable of feeding over 600 guests in a single night). With restaurants, hotels, and now Nobu-branded residences around the world—including London, Moscow, Budapest, Tokyo, Melbourne and Cape Town—the group effortless fuses gastronomy and hospitality at each destination.

What was the catalyst for entering into the hotel industry? And why Los Vegas as your initial launch? CEO Trevor Horwell: Since the first Nobu restaurant opened 28 years ago, the brand has been about creating memorable experiences around food. With the hotels, the name Nobu has evolved far beyond the dining experience. So, after looking at what Nobu brought to the global food scene, we decided to translate that sense of excitement and dynamism into hotels.

Caesars Palace and Nobu are both synonymous with achieving the highest level of guest satisfaction, creating unforgettable moments, and delivering luxury through experiences. It was a natural fit for us. We have since expanded our partnership to include hotels in Atlantic City and New Orleans, as well as a third restaurant in Las Vegas at Paris.

Why did you decide to include residences at some of the properties set to open over the next few years? Trevor: Our customers want luxury, but in a discreet and authentic way. And they want fantastic dining and heartfelt service. The Residences enable us to offer this Nobu lifestyle to buyers. They exemplify what Nobu has come to stand for—a place to relax in unpretentious luxury—while still feeling like you are part of something special. The upcoming Nobu Hotel and Residences in Toronto is one of our more ambitious launches. We’re developing twin towers that will feature 660 residential units and a Nobu Hotel, with suites on top of the residences. We sold every square foot within three months of launching. We’re now developing residences in Los Cabos, Al Khobar, Tulum, Orlando, Punta Cana, and Da Nang.

Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay.Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay. NOBU

The brand has been going for more than 25 years—what next? Meir Teper: We have some exciting projects in the pipeline. We are opening Nobu Hotel and Restaurant Rome, our first Italian property, which will debut later this year alongside openings in Santorini, Atlanta, Atlantic City, and Marrakesh. We also just announced our 30th hotel, which was an incredibly exciting milestone: Nobu Hotel, Restaurant and Residences in Tulum.

How do you select the head chefs at each of the new restaurants? Nobu Matsuhisa: Nobu is a global brand, and we have a very multicultural team. One of our biggest strengths is that we promote from within. Our head chefs have all extensively trained at one or more Nobu location for several years before taking the helm of their own kitchen.

I read an interview where Trevor Horwell said: “Nothing about a Nobu Hotel is carbon copy, and each property reflects its given locality.” Tell me about how you learn about a destination and culture in order to represent that authentically in the space? Do you have any specific examples? Meir: Design is the foundation of every Nobu Hotel. It is that blend of modern cool luxury and minimal Japanese traditionalism. And, while there are consistent elements of Japanese-inspired design throughout the portfolio—the Japanese teak baths at Los Cabos; the Kintsugi accents in Barcelona, and the Japanese-inspired colour palette at Portman Square—we remain true to each destination.

Our team research local textiles and craftsmanship, and then add in design touches inspired by these artisans. We also derive inspiration from great interior designers, such as David Rockwell, Severine Tatangelo, and Simon Rawlings (David Collins Studio), all of whom have designed hotels and restaurants for the brand.

Nobu: We bring in local employees to drive what the local experience is about. If you go to Cabo, we have added regional dishes to the menu and programmed events with the help of homegrown curators. Even the music is selected according to the destination.

What is your approach to sustainability for now and in the future? Meir: We are committed to providing more sustainable products and services to guests, without compromising the experience. Our approach to sustainability differs at each property. For example, Nobu Hotel Manila eliminates waste by reusing coffee grinds and organic waste in the on-property vermicomposting facility. Once treated, organic compost is used in the herb garden and general landscaping. It was also the first resort in the country to install solar panels.

Hotel with the best view Trevor: The restaurant at Nobu Hotel Barcelona. It’s on the 23rd floor and has views across the whole city.

What do you always pack when you travel? Nobu: Nike trainers and exercise clothes—I also keep a pair in every Nobu kitchen, as I like to exercise after travelling.

Best suite? Meir: The Nobu Villa at Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace is incredible.

Favourite dish? Trevor: It has to be the black cod miso.

Via Forbes

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