US-based Nobu Hospitality has its sights set on expanding its portfolio in Asia, specifically Thailand.
After launching the Nobu restaurant chain in 1994, the founders – Hollywood actor-director Robert De Niro with celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa and film producer and entrepreneur Meir Teper – in 2009 established Nobu Hospitality, which now has 20 hotels open and in development around the world.
Nobu Hospitality has recently signed an MoU with Thailand-based real estate group Asset World Corp (AWC) to open multiple developments in the country. This includes Thailand’s first Nobu restaurant at Empire Tower, AWC’s mixed-use office complex in Bangkok’s CBD, and potentially two Nobu Hotels within the next six years.
Travel Weekly Asia speaks to Nobu Hospitality CEO Trevor Horwell on expansion plans in Asia.
Why did Nobu decide to enter into Thailand, and why now?
AWC, our partner, is a very special group who will add at least three Nobu Hotel properties in Thailand including the capital city, Bangkok. Thailand as a destination has both urban and non-urban locations which fit very well into our type of hotel product and services.
How will Bangkok’s first-ever Nobu Restaurant differ from other Nobu outposts in the world?
Bangkok’s first-ever Nobu Restaurant will further position the city as a world-class food destination and enhance the existing property, Empire Tower, turning it into a large mixed-use facility and lifestyle experience destination in the heart of the Bangkok CBD. We approach every city differently and we don’t want to be cookie cutter in design. Each venue is different to the next but there is an unmistakeable identity in which minimalistic design meets comfortable luxury.
Can you share more details about the plans for multiple Nobu-branded hotels and restaurants in Thailand?
We are in the early stages but expect to be making announcements before the end of the year.
What do the shareholders — Chef Nobu, De Niro and Meir Teper — think about Thailand?
The shareholders are extremely excited to be working with AWC in Thailand to develop Nobu Hotels and Restaurants. Partners are important for us, and with the leadership of Wallapa Traisorat [AWC chief executive and president], we know the future is bright with Nobu in Thailand and beyond. With Nobu’s heritage and our roots in Japan, Asia is a very important destination for Chef Nobu personally.
How has Covid-19 influenced the future of Nobu Hotels and Restaurants? Has it affected any of the development plans going forward?
So far, we have been fortunate not to lose any of our hotels and restaurants due to the economic effects of the pandemic. The hospitality industry has been hit the hardest over the pandemic, and we are no different, but we were encouraged by the numbers during Covid at our new hotels as well as our existing portfolio — we opened properties in Chicago, Warsaw, and London in 2020.
Our perception is one of quality, cleanliness and service and, we have found in opening our restaurants and hotels during the pandemic that our guests are returning to us with a trust based upon our commitment to their safety and comfort.
While the macro-environment has sustained hits, it hasn’t changed our long-term planning. We will continue to be fully committed to our hotel and restaurant ownership partners and have complete confidence in our performance which underscores the strength of our brand and business model — we continue to plan for the long term to ensure we are growing.