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De Niro's Nobu aims for US$1b sales combining sushi, hotels

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Nobu Hospitality LLC, the sushi restaurant and luxury hotel chain founded by Robert De Niro, chef Nobu Matsuhisa and movie producer Meir Teper, expects to reach US$1 billion revenue in five years as it adds condos to its growing empire.

[TORONTO] Nobu Hospitality LLC, the sushi restaurant and luxury hotel chain founded by Robert De Niro, chef Nobu Matsuhisa and movie producer Meir Teper, expects to reach US$1 billion revenue in five years as it adds condos to its growing empire.

A key step in the company's growth was its first foray into the condo market with 660 units and 36 luxury-hotel suites atop a Nobu restaurant in Toronto. The project, announced last year, sold out in three months. After starting with one sushi restaurant in New York in 1994, the company now has more than 40 locations, including London and Las Vegas, said Trevor Horwell, chief executive officer of closely held Nobu Hospitality.

"It's quite a rapid growth," Horwell said, breaking ground at the Toronto project in the city's entertainment district Monday. "Normally in our restaurants, we can have over 100,000 customers a year. All we've got to do is convert 10 to 15 per cent of those customers to fill our hotels. So that's why we went into hotels."

Nobu Hospitality hopes to complete the two-tower Toronto project, which may cost as much as C$300 million (S$308 million), in 30 months, Horwell said. Hotel room rates are expected be as much as C$800 per night and condo units will average C$850,000.

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"I've done movies here, a festival here and it's a logical place for us to open," said De Niro, who also attended the groundbreaking, complete with gold shovels and Japanese drummers.

The company has committed to two more mixed-use developments, in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Los Cabos, Mexico, and is on the lookout for more opportunities in Asia, including Taipei, Hong Kong and Jakarta. Horwell hopes to have 10 mixed-use Nobu developments around the world in the next decade, while adding five hotels and restaurants per year.

New York is still the dream location for a Nobu-branded mixed-used development, said Horwell, despite an earlier project falling through due to zoning hurdles. "We want to do New York without a doubt, but it has to be special," he said. "If we did a mixed-use, it'd have to be the best, because there's some great developments there."

De Niro is hoping to see a Nobu resort in the coming years, specifically eyeing Bermuda. "There's quite a few things in the works," he said.

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