Industry Insiders: John Meadow & Curt Huegel; Partners, LDV Hospitality
John Meadow (left) and Curt Huegel (right), the partners behind LDV Hospitality, have never been busier. As the duo responsible for such hot spots as Veritas in New York, American Cut at Revel Resorts in Atlantic City, and Scarpetta, which has locations all over the country, they’re on a tear, but they always maintain the quality of their various venues. Their latest must-visit spot is No. 8, an upscale Chelsea nightclub they opened with Amy Sacco that carries on the tradition of the legendary Bungalow 8. We chatted with the hospitality duo to find out how they keep sky-high standards across their growing portfolio of properties.
Where are you from?
John Meadow: I grew up in Connecticut and went to Choate Rosemary Hall and Cornell hotel school.
Curt Huegel: I was born in New Jersey and lived in 16 different places by the time I graduated from high school, including Chestertown, Maryland (twice) and Arlington, Virginia. My mother was a decorator – she would buy fixer-up houses and I knew when she finished the bedroom we were moving.
How did you get into the restaurant business?
Meadow: My first job was at the Plaza Hotel in the food and beverage program. It was tough grind, but also very exciting to work in such an iconic company in the center of it all. My family was right around the corner growing up, and we’d always go to the Plaza for Easter.
Huegel: I have always been in the hospitality business – I worked my way through college waiting tables and after graduating I owned my first bar in New York City on the Upper East Side and never went on a job interview.
Meadow: It was important for me to own my own business. I was 24 and I met Curt and we opened a bar together called Local on 33rd and Eighth with some other partners. It was a grand slam. Then I left and opened a place called Gin Lane in the Meatpacking District. Gin Lane was a tragedy – I lost everything. There was lots of hype and lots of celebrity, and then it was tragically out of business. I learned a lot from the experience.
What made you decide to launch LDV Hospitality and what was that process like?
Huegel: I had always been in the bar and restaurant business, and the reason for forming LDV Hospitality was the natural progression from doing one-off restaurants. We wanted to create a hospitality company that would fill a void. LDV Hospitality’s first project was partnering with Scott Conant to form Scott Conant Management and open Scarpetta in the Meatpacking District in 2008. We learned that choosing your partnership wisely is paramount to your success in this business.
Meadow: We went on to do Veritas, where we brought in (executive chef) Sam Hazen. Veritas was awarded a Michelin star and got a three-star review in The New York Times. Then we developed the new Revel projects in Atlantic City, Azure, American Cut, and Lugo Caffe—the original location of Lugo is at One Penn Plaza. We wanted to do something on a more accessible, commercial level. It’s a heartfelt, passionate project at a level that’s attainable to the masses, yet with the same level of true hospitality of our other places. That’s largely the future of our business. American Cut and Lugo are the brands we want to run with now.
How’s are the Revel properties going so far?
Huegel: Things are going very well and we believe that the three restaurants that we opened at Revel – American Cut, Azure, and Lugo Caffé – are on par with any other restaurant in any casino or hotel project in the world.
Tell me about No. 8.
Meadow: For our last, most exciting deal, we partnered with Amy Sacco for No. 8. Amy represents an organic, real aspect of social life in the city. It’s very organic, it’s very natural, and it feels like New York City. There’s no shakedown to get you to spend $10,000 on a table. You’re either on that guest list or you’re not, there’s no negotiation at the door. As with all of our businesses, we take care of our guests. It’s working. It’s going great.
With so many different bars and restaurants to oversee, what’s an average day like for you? Do you go to an office or do you divide your time between the venues?
Huegel: My average day is long. With so many venues to oversee you have to believe in your staff – we have a director of operations that we trust implicitly. Our time is split between the office and venues and we visit them at night to see them in action as often as possible.
Many people have tried and failed to do what you do. What advice would you give to a young person interested in owning and operating upscale restaurants and lounges like yours?
Huegel: The hospitality business has to be something that you love and are passionate about. It picks you, you don’t pick it. One simple secret to success is to always be striving to exceed your guests’ expectations.
Meadow: It’s either all buzzwords, or you make it something real. We’ve created a team of empowered individuals and we’ve been aggressive about developing a brand.