Internationally acclaimed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his partner Phil Suarez, Starwood and leading consumer-focused private equity firm Catterton Partners have announced that they have partnered to create an international, upscale, multi-concept restaurant and licensing business.The new company will develop, own, operate, manage and license world-class restaurants created by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, including the highly successful Spice Market restaurant located in New York City, plus new to-be-developed multi-unit Jean-Georges restaurant concepts. Acclaimed by critics as “formidably gifted” and a “residential genius,” Jean-Georges is one of the world’s most celebrated chefs, currently holding an unprecedented total of 20 stars from The New York Times for his seven New York City restaurants. In addition, his Jean-Georges restaurant was recently awarded three coveted Michelin stars.
The new company will serve as a third party development arm for restaurant concepts in Starwood’s upper-upscale and luxury hotel brands including W, Westin, Le Meridien and St. Regis. Additionally, the company will own and operate freestanding restaurants outside of Starwood’s hotels.
Starwood Chief Executive Officer, Steven J. Heyer, sees opportunity to distinguish Starwood’s brands by offering customers memorable dining experiences, while capturing a greater share of business from guests and generating increased local traffic.
“The hotel industry has commoditized hotel dining to the point that most restaurants are so unremarkable they’re simply an option of last resort,” said Heyer. “We see a wonderful opportunity to dramatically re-imagine hotel dining and provide customers an unforgettable, theatrical experience.”
In addition to a strong alignment between Jean-Georges’ restaurant brands and concepts and Starwood’s brands, Heyer cited Jean-Georges’ experience operating restaurants in diverse global markets from New York to Paris to Las Vegas to the Bahamas as elements that were attractive to Starwood.
“Starwood’s brands fly their flags at some of the most prestigious addresses in the best locations around the world,” said Jean-Georges. Suarez agrees and adds that, “By partnering with them, we are able to grow in a meaningful way that would be unattainable on our own. Starwood’s commitment to quality, innovation and design, coupled with Catterton’s understanding of the food industry, were important considerations as we looked to expand our business.”
The new company will leverage Jean-Georges’ existing infrastructure and experienced managers as well as build a larger team to roll out multiple units—something that one-off partnerships with celebrity chefs can not achieve.
“The partnership unites the ‘best in class,’ each bringing to the table unique skills and capabilities,” said J. Michael Chu, Managing Partner of Catterton Partners. “With Jean-Georges’ culinary genius, proven concept development ability and infrastructure, combined with Starwood’s acclaimed brands and large real estate pipeline, and our proven track record of creating market leading companies, we are extraordinarily confident in the success of this venture.”
Starwood anticipates that Jean-Georges’ restaurant concepts will be attractive to its hotel owners and will help command premium pricing while enhancing Starwood’s brands. “We believe that there is terrific upside potential in developing viable restaurant concepts that will reinforce our core brand experiences, and provide incremental margins, and we expect our new restaurants to be meaningful profit centers,” concluded Heyer.