Living the Unique Life, Interview with Sam Nazarian CEO of sbe

How does one come to embody the ideals of an aspirational brand? With luxury lifestyle brands including SLS, Delano and Mondrian as well as a myriad of posh restaurants, clubs and spas, sbe Entertainment Group transcends the standard definition of a luxury hotel chain by offering guests a more comprehensive experience and, importantly, a genuine sense of identity.

What intrigued me most at this current juncture is sbe’s incredibly ambitious expansion plans. On a trajectory to double its hotel and condominium portfolio within five years, the North American-centered sbe is going global with boutique property openings in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

With all this excitement, I was happy to be put in touch with Sam Nazarian, Founder, Chairman and CEO of sbe. During this brief interview, he nonetheless dispensed some valuable insights into what makes sbe truly unique amongst a saturation of competitors in the same space.

This major expansion has undoubtedly been many years in the making. Why is this rapid growth happening now?
I’ve spent many years building a brand and company that I am extremely proud of. We have created a successful combination of offerings that our customers love: from luxury hotels and residences to award-winning entertainment venues and fast casual dining. Now with a strong foundation and loyal guests in place, we can focus our efforts on scaling and growth. The more than 70 projects in our pipeline demonstrate the versatility and strength of our brands on a global scale. I am excited to see our new openings come to fruition and look forward to continuing to develop sbe both domestically and internationally.

What makes SLS truly unique?
sbe is about creating destinations and 360-degree experiences for our guests. SLS is this idea exactly –with an irresistible combination of style, luxury, service, creativity and community. SLS has partnered with world-renowned designer Philippe Starck, celebrated chefs José Andrés, Katsuya Uechi, Michael Schwartz and Danny Elmaleh, and creative renaissance men Matthew Rolston and Lenny Kravitz to create immersive design, dining and entertainment experiences within each hotel.

How does also owning a series of restaurant and club brands heighten the service delivery at an sbe-operated property?
It is clear that our guests are now seeking a fully packaged 360-degree experience from their hotel stays. We are focused on creating destinations and being at the cutting edge of delivering a 360-degree approach to luxury hospitality – by managing restaurants and lounges we’re able to expertly deliver this experience as an integral part of a hotel’s operation. Take the newly opened Mondrian Doha designed by Marcel Wanders where our guests can have breakfast at Cut by Wolfgang Puk, then spend the day at the rooftop pool or have a relaxing treatment at the world’s largest ESPA spa. As evening hits, they can freshen up for dinner at Morimoto before going for drinks at Rise and then on to the Black Orchid lounge for the rest of the night. It’s a complete destination!

How does this expansion into certain territories reflect broader changes in travel trends?
We are looking to expand into new global territories that hold significant potential and align with our strategic objectives. We are currently expanding our global footprint in the Middle East and Latin America with plans to open in Mexico, Qatar, Uruguay, Argentina and Istanbul. We assess new destinations based on wider trends, demand, current landscape, suitability and connectivity as well as potential local partners.

Many of the new builds contain a mix between guestrooms and serviced residences. What advantages do these hybrid hotels have?
We call ourselves a lifestyle hospitality company because of the 360-degree experience we offer – which includes residences. These ‘hybrid hotels’ allow us the flexibility to cater to our guests’ differing needs – our serviced apartments offer guests the chance to stay with us on a more long-term basis with the added comfort of hotel facilities. They can truly live the sbe lifestyle.

Your mission statement emphasizes authenticity, sophistication, mastery and innovation. Can you describe a few cases where each of these concepts has been utilized?
We’ve just opened our tenth Katsuya restaurant in our brand-new Bahamas hotel: SLS Baha Mar. This opening is a great symbol of mastery and of Katsuya’s evolution, longevity and ability to remain relevant in a crowded, global scene. From opening our first location in Los Angeles and expanding throughout the US, to opening internationally in the Middle East and now the Bahamas, Katsuya’s momentum is not slowing down and that is really exciting. Another example is our partnership with Impossible Foods at our premium burger restaurant, Umami Burger. Impossible Foods are the creators of the plant-based patty that ‘bleeds’, and we partnered with them to create something that’s not only innovative and sustainable but also crave able.