Hakkasan Says Hooray for H.Wood Group

Nick-McCabe_President-of-Hakkasan-Group1The Hakkasan Group empire just keeps spreading. The global lifestyle company already partnered with MGM Resorts International to build hotels as MGM Hakkasan Hospitality. Hakkasan Group has also now acquired a majority stake in Los Angeles’ H.Wood Group, operators of Hooray Henry’s, Shorebar and two outposts of Bootsy Bellows (in West Hollywood and Aspen), and will open two restaurants, The Nice Guy and Blind Dragon, later this year.

The H.Wood Group was founded by top L.A. event producers John Terzian and Brian Toll. Vegas Seven caught up with Hakkasan president Nick McCabe to get his thoughts on what this acquisition means for these two groups in Las Vegas and beyond.

Why is Hakkasan Group partnering with the H.Wood Group?

We wanted to have a Los Angeles footprint, and expand our brand and network in this key feeder market. We have worked with the H.Wood Group a lot. Their nightclubs are great venues and they have a good track record.

What are your plans for their brands?

First, we will look to John and Brian to continue to run these Los Angeles venues as they have, but given the huge back and forth among [their] customers to Vegas, they will coordinate closely with [Hakkasan Group vice president of marketing] Alex Cordova and his team. This will give us more touch points with our consumers on the West Coast.

Second, we also plan to use our infrastructure to help them develop further. With the success of Bootsy Bellows, both in L.A. and in Aspen, we see a lot of potential for that brand. We already have Hakkasan, and with the renovation of Pure [we will have two megaclubs in Vegas]. We can see a smaller, celebrity-driven brand like Bootsy Bellows, however, fitting nicely into our portfolio.

So we can expect a Bootsy Bellows in Las Vegas?

We have no plans currently in place, but we believe a Bootsy Bellows could find a home at some point in Vegas. We are not sure yet sure how it will manifest, but do not think that it will do so in the Pure space.

The H.Wood Group has previously announced plans to open restaurants The Nice Guy and Blind Dragon in L.A. How will these brands complement Hakkasan Group’s existing culinary portfolio?

It takes a lot of effort, time and money to execute a fine-dining restaurant like Hakkasan. In London, Hakkasan and our other restaurants all operate at a very high level. HKK offers super high-end, banquet-style Chinese fare and Sake No Hana is the high-end Japanese equivalent of Hakkasan. In L.A. we are looking to have different offerings.

Not only is a fine-dining experience harder to provide, it’s more difficult to drive margins. As we develop a full portfolio, we are looking to diversify our brand with a range of concepts so that as we expand into other markets that may be more traditional, we can provide a more all-American option.

Blind Dragon is more of a fun concept that will revolve around karaoke, and while Chinese, it will not be along the lines of Hakkasan. The Nice Guy will be another fun concept with whimsical food offerings. We already have serious dining brands, and this [acquisition] will help us add fun and creative concepts to the family.

John Terzian is also a major events guy, who recently created a Bootsy Bellows pop-up in Cannes during the film festival. Will you continue to take advantage of that as well?

Absolutely. That was one of the key reasons for this acquisition. It is becoming increasingly more important over time to capture our customers with touch points, but our customers are not in places like Cannes or St. Tropez year round. In 2015 and 2016, we will really be looking to get our brand out there, and I look forward to working with [H.Wood Group], as they have great celebrity relationships and deliver great events.

How is this deal different from Hakkasan Group’s purchase of Enlightened Hospitality, owners of Stingaree Nightclub in San Diego and chef Brian Malarkey’s Herringbone and Searsucker restaurants?

These acquisitions were done for different reasons. With Enlightened it was more about adding mid-level dining to our portfolio, and with H.Wood [we are looking to position ourselves] in the L.A. nightlife and celebrity scene.