Industry Insiders: Steve Haffner, Kayak King
Steve Haffner, the man behind the curtain at Kayak.com, reveals his jet-setting ways, mid-meeting bar games, and the destinations you should add to your globetrotting roster.
Where can we find you outside the office? I travel a lot, and I love the restaurant scene. La Esquina in New York is a great Mexican restaurant in the basement of a nondescript building. I like Rick Bayliss’ place in Chicago, the Frontera Grill. I love the bar scene at the Sanderson Hotel in London. It’s a good mix of Europeans, Russians, and the occasional expat.
Who do you admire in your industry? There are those larger than life types: David Neelman, who started jetBlue — he’s a serial airline launcher who has made money every time. He just launched Azul in Brazil last week, and he’s amazing. Another is Jeff Boyd of Priceline, who has been there for eight or nine years. He took a nice little company and made it outperform everybody in the industry. Now it’s worth $3.5 billion.
What is something that people might not know about you? One of the things is that I’m addicted to is bar games. We’ve got a pool table in the office, and we’re putting a basketball court in our new, larger office space. We break up our meetings and go play. If you do it enough at work, you find that when you play with your friends that you’re quite good at it. For instance, if you play somebody for the bar bill, you beat them.
Favorite destinations? My favorite destination is the Eden Roc hotel in Antibes, a magical place, enchanting. They used to take cash only, but now take credit cards. I love the Hotel Costes in Paris and the bar — it’s managed to stay on top for awhile now. The pool underneath it is great, but you can never turn the light on in the rooms. My favorite hotel in New York is the Bowery; it’s hipper than the Mercer, even though the neighborhood is worse, and the bar scene is fabulous. I had my 40th birthday at Setai in South Beach, and threw the actual birthday party at the Delano. Ian Schraeger’s ability to keep the quality up is amazing. Also, the Shore Club next door to the Setai is much more “go-go” than the Setai is.
Notice any trends in the travel realm that we should know about? I love that bars and hotels are focusing on service and making the experience different. There are now niche brands, boutique hotels and bars. You can get great deals at luxury hotels without sacrificing service. We’re going to the Ocean Club this year — the prices make it a good deal.
What are you doing tonight? Tonight is going to be a boring evening. Last night I was in Boston, and tomorrow we’re having a party at our house. Tonight, after we put the kids to bed, I’m taking the wife out to Paci in Westport. A French friend had his 40th birthday there with his boyfriend, and the host is from Naples, and he takes care of us.