The multi-concept hospitality company SBE is taking its high-end sushi concept Katsuya by Starck international for the first time.
Los Angeles-based SBE said Monday it has signed an agreement with international franchise operator M.H. Alshaya Co. to open at least 17 Katsuya restaurants across the Middle East. The first two are scheduled to open in 2013 in Kuwait and Dubai.
With a lively, glamorous scene and a menu developed by JapaneseKatsuya Uechi, the restaurant Katsuya first opened in 2006 in Los Angeles. The chain has grown to eight locations, including four that have opened in the past year in Laguna Beach, Calif.; San Diego; Houston and Miami.
The company is also growing its two-unit SLS Hotel brand, now in Los Angeles and Miami, as well as its restaurant and nightclub portfolio within and around those hotels. SLS hotels are scheduled to open in New York next year, and in Las Vegas in 2014. With those new properties, SBE’s restaurant portfolio will also grow, including Katsuya, The Bazaar by José Andrés, and the nightclub Hyde.
SBE said an SLS hotel is also planned for China, though the company has yet to set a date for its opening.
Sam Nazarian, SBE’s chairman and chief executive, also hinted at more deals that would further spread the hospitality company’s reach, including a possible hotel acquisition in Miami for the launch of a new “sub” hotel brand, and a yet-to-be announced partnership with MGM Resorts International properties in Las Vegas and elsewhere.
“We’re looking at being brand incubators. We’ve been following a business model of creating and harnessing brands,” said Nazarian.
The licensing agreement with Alshaya will allow SBE to tap what Nazarian described as a hunger throughout the Middle East for “luxury lifestyle” brands.
Like those in the U.S., the overseas Katsuya restaurants will be designed by Philippe Starck in a way that fits the local culture. “The biggest amount of work we have is creating a template that will work as well in Dubai as in Kuwait and across the GCC,” or the Gulf Cooperation Council region, Nazarian said.
Alshaya operates more than 55 retail and restaurant brands across the Middle East, including Starbucks, P.F. Chang’s, The Cheesecake Factory and Shake Shack. Nazarian said he was impressed by Alshaya’s experience as a franchise operator, but also the Kuwait-based company’s ties to luxury malls and retail centers across the region.
In the U.S., SBE is also opening a version of its Hyde nightclub in the American Airlines Arena in Miami, in a partnership with Miami Heat. SBE also created the restaurants Mercato di Vetro and Cleo in Los Angeles, and is a co-owner of the Umami Burger chain, which is also aggressively growing.
Nazarian said SBE is uniquely positioned for both domestic and international growth. “Having the hotel, the restaurant and nightlife side all under one roof has really differentiated us, and allowed us to compete nationally and internationally,” he said. “There aren’t too many hotel guys that can speak the restaurant language or the nightlife language. It’s a one-stop shop.”