Trevor Horwell, CEO at Nobu Hospitality

Since Nobu Hospitality moved into the hotel industry five years ago, the luxury lifestyle brand has grown to operate across five continents. On track to operate 20 hotels by 2020, the iconic portfolio will see properties in Barcelona, Los Cabos and Chicago launch this year alone. With a career in luxury hospitality spanning more than a decade, Trevor Horwell, the CEO of Nobu Hospitality, is at the heart of the brand’s global expansion.

How, and why, did Nobu move into the hotel industry?

Since the first Nobu Restaurant opened its doors over 25 years ago, the brand has been about creating memorable experiences around food, and with the hotels, the name Nobu has developed far beyond the dining experience. Nobu Restaurants were asked to be in a lot of places, including hotels. We were asking, if we’re going into those places, why not do this ourselves? If you’re giving credibility and cachet to a place, we have something people want, to elevate their brand. Why not do it ourselves?

So, after looking at what Nobu brought to the global food scene, we decided to translate the sense of excitement and dynamism into hotels; in 2009, the shareholders (Nobu Matsuhisa, De Niro and Meir Teper) approached myself and Struan McKenzie to lead the strategic focus in growing Nobu Hotels. Our background includes developing the brand for COMO Hotels and Global Hyatt, at Nobu Hotels, we cover all aspects of the bespoke hotel business and hospitality – spanning development, operations, marketing and financials on a global scale.

How did De Niro and Nobu’s relationship impact this?

The story of the Nobu brand actually began in the late 1980’s when Robert De Niro first visited Matsuhisa’s sushi restaurant in Los Angeles. At this stage, Nobu was reluctant to grow the company, and it took four years for De Niro to convince him to expand into his own corner of Manhattan. Nobu himself was a game changer and has remained so to this day.

As a chef, Nobu created something entirely unique, and then it evolved. His longstanding relationship with both Robert De Niro and Meir Teper is the foundation of Nobu Hospitality. De Niro is a creative visionary who saw the sheer mastery in what Chef Nobu was doing.  As a core principal of the group, all three stakeholders have provided creative direction for all of the Nobu Restaurants, and they continue to provide leadership and insight in the development of Nobu Hotels.

The first hotel launched in 2013, as part of Caesars Palace as a hotel-within-a-hotel. What was the reason for this?

We’re very selective in regard to our partners, and it’s important to us that we work with those who complement and adapt to the Nobu ethos and echo what we stand for, sharing our philosophy for luxury hospitality. For example, Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace in Las Vegas was our very first hotel, and at the end of 2018, we announced the extension of our partnership.

Caesars Palace and Nobu are both synonymous with achieving the highest level of guest satisfaction, unique experiences and delivering luxury through guest experiences. This is the same for Nobu Hotel Miami Beach and Edon Roc. From our experience, our customers tend not to overly compare the Nobu experience with our partners, as they have a great understanding of who we are – namely our distinctive service, food and facilities.

As we have expanded around the world, we have never moved from what we set out to do. Looking ahead, our concept of the future extends to Nobu Hotels and Residences exemplifying the spirit of what Nobu has come to stand for – a place to relax, to savour an experience– in an atmosphere charged with a sense of being a part of something extraordinary. 

About Nobu Hospitality

Nobu Hotels effortlessly blends modern luxury and minimal Japanese tradition into the concept of a lifestyle hotel. Filled with cutting-edge design and stunning spaces, Nobu Hotels provides remarkable, hospitable service and an unparalleled experience like nothing before. Helming from world-renowned Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro and Meir Teper, the Nobu Hotels’ concept is a remarkable conjunction of exquisite cuisine, innovation and creativity.

The rest of this interview will be published at a later time.