Robert De Niro’s Nobu Is Here to Stay

Nobu logo.

Oscar-winning performances aren’t the only thing Robert De Niro is skilled at producing. De Niro was also co-founder of the first Nobu restaurant and has since gone on to co-found 39 restaurants and 13 luxury hotels across five continents alongside his partners, celebrity chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa and film producer Meir Teper. Here is how De Niro and his founding team created the Nobu empire.

Turning One Restaurant Into a Hotel Empire

In 1988, Robert De Niro became a regular customer of Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matuhisa’s first LA restaurant, Matuhisa. De Niro was already a successful actor, having starred in iconic films such as Taxi Driver and The Godfather Part II; however, De Niro appears to have a taste for a different type of success as well. The actor encouraged Matsuhisa to launch another restaurant in Tribeca during this time, but it wasn’t until 1994 that the chef decided to take De Niro up on his suggestion — resulting in the original Nobu restaurant.

The dish that became synonymous with the Nobu brand, black cod with miso, became a must-order at Nobu. And, as the brand expanded, their iconic dish was instrumental in helping to maintain the Nobu brand internationally — in addition to the slew of celebrity patrons, from Elton John to Kate Moss, frequenting Nobu restaurants. 

The popularity of the Japanese-Peruvian restaurant grew, resulting in a hospitality empire including restaurants and hotels located across the globe as well as the introduction of another business partner Meir Teper, a film producer and entrepreneur. The trio of founders is responsible for parlaying the initial success of the Nobu brand into Nobu Hotels, with the first Nobu Hotel opening in 2013 inside Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace. 

Each hotel experience is luxurious, and each property has unique offerings, with the first Nobu Hotel opening in 2013 inside Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace. 

Only two years later, the brand opened another hotel in Manila, Philippines, which led to the Australian billionaire James Packer buying a 20% stake in the company that helped perpetuate immense growth and expansion for both Nobu restaurants and hotels. By 2020, only five years after Packer’s investment in the company, the Nobu brand had expanded to 47 restaurants and 13 hotels globally.

What’s Next for Nobu

Like many food and service companies during the 2020 pandemic, business closures and lockdowns could’ve spelled trouble for Nobu, despite its celebrity-backing and wildly successful trajectory. In fact, the launch of the Nobu Hotel London Portman Square location, which was initially planned to open in December of 2022, was postponed due to lockdowns. And, many of Nobu’s 10,000 staff were furloughed for a greater part of 2020. 

However, it appears the brand has come back in full force. This could be due, in part, to the decision to pivot the brand in order to appeal to local markets during the pandemic, focusing primarily on creating a haven for locals to partake in domestic tourism rather than traveling abroad. With locations opening inside Virgin Hotels, another in Bangkok, and more on the horizon, it appears the Nobu brand is here to stay.

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