Q&A with John Meadow, LDV Hospitality

F&B is one of the pillars of New York City culture—not only is it an essential part of how residents and travelers experience the city, itis an indicator of trends. John Meadow, founder and president of LDV Hospitality, has been an integral part of the city’s F&B scene.

After graduating from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Meadow began his career as the manager of The Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room. In 2008, he created the restaurant Scarpetta in the city’s then-emerging Meatpacking District, effectively launching LDV Hospitality. Now, the company offers more than 24 F&B venues throughout the country, including concepts such as American Cut, Regent Cocktail Club, No. 8 and Dolce Italian.

Hotel Business caught up with the New York-based executive about the city, the company and partnering with the right hotels.

What sparked your interest in this career path? My grandfather was an architect and I was always inspired by his distinct vision and creative pursuit. That, paired with overly romanticizing the classic maître d’hôtel figures that I saw in restaurants growing up, inspired my passion in becoming a restaurateur.

Describe the F&B and hospitality culture in New York? NYC’s culture is driven by the vibrant and dynamic personalities of its people. New Yorkers are passionate with a very defined point of view, which creates a thoughtful and demanding guest. The staff and guests are intense so everyone plays at a very high level. It’s a culture of extremes and is at the forefront of setting trends with a unique and robust demand to support the intense marketplace.

Are there any neighborhoods you’re excited about for the future? We are thrilled to soon announce we’ll be opening up an LDV concept in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood. It feels very reminiscent of when I signed my first lease in Meatpacking in 2005, just at the cusp of becoming a premier NYC dining and social destination.

What were the most important early lessons you learned? Location, location, location. In hotel school, you learn about the age-old adage of location, location, location, and K.I.S.S.: Keep it simple, stupid. Throughout my first entrepreneurial pursuit in my 20s, both my initial failures and successes truly proved these simple points, which upon accepting, have become pillars of our operational philosophies at LDV.

You have stand-alone restaurants and those that are in hotels. Is there a difference in how you approach these projects? Throughout my career, we have experienced greater reward when taking the risk of independent restaurants as opposed to the conventional hotel-licensed deal. However, our strategy going forward is to create independent restaurants within the hotel environment that allows for integrity and ultimate financial reward of a successful independent restaurant operation paired with the financial scalability of a hotel F&B operation.

When doing a restaurant in a hotel, how do you approach it from a design/concept standpoint? Our philosophy is to create independent restaurants that appropriately coexist within a given hotel environment—that is where we bring true value to our hotel landlords, clients and partners. We identify the right concept for the hotel based on an understanding of the sensibility of the hotel ethos and environment, and either select one of our existing brands or tailor a concept for the property. We acknowledge the realities that go beyond our conventional aspirational dinner experience and the need to create an exceptional guest experience every time they come to the restaurant. 

When considering a partnership with a hotel, what are the most important things to agree on for a culture fit? It starts with both parties having open and honest communication about the desired guest experience. We look for hotel partners with a defined vision who create a unique guest experience on the room side that inspires us, and fundamentally desire the experience we create on the F&B side. Regardless of economics, if both parties are honest and appreciative of what each one brings to the table, then you have the opportunity to create the desired guest experience. We’re excited to operate and offer a wide range of guest experiences through our LDV lifestyle portfolio, so we look for hotel partners with a defined vision.

Describe your growth strategy. Much of our early-stage growth was opportunistic, reacting to developers who approached us, and simply be excited to open and launch new concepts. We have now shifted to a far more strategic approach to growth that focuses specifically on developing our core brands—Scarpetta, American Cut and Dolce Italian—or creating new concepts for hotel partners we truly believe in.

What lies ahead? We have a really exciting project in Manhattan’s NoMad district that we will formally announce over the next few months. We are thrilled to announce our first international projects for Scarpetta and Dolce Italian in Dubai next year.

What is your dream project? I would love a hotel opportunity in the Mediterranean similar to what we have done at Gurney’s Montauk Resort, where we would create a truly unique beach club experience, F&B components and special banquets.

What is the next best innovation/opportunity in the restaurant business? There are constant innovations but where the opportunity lies for LDV is in becoming the premier F&B solution in the hotel space, whether master leasing F&B contracts for our core brands or developing tailor-made concepts for unique hotel projects. We are motivated to create and grow the independent restaurant experience. 2016 demands the independent restaurant experience marries with the hotel space, and therefore LDV is perfect for that. HB

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