Myriad Restaurant Group, Inc.
Myriad Restaurant Group, Inc.
NAIC: 722110 Full-Service Restaurants
Myriad Restaurant Group, Inc., is a private New York City-based company headed by celebrity restaurateur Drew Nieporent, operating 11 upscale restaurants as well as Crush Wine & Spirits, a Manhattan wine shop. New York operations include Montrachet, a three-star restaurant that was Nieporent’s first eatery; Tribeca Grill, launched with actor Robert De Niro; Japanese restaurant Nobu and its cousins, Nobu Next Door and uptown’s Nobu Fifty Seven; Mai House, a Vietnamese restaurant; and Centrico, a Mexican restaurant. Myriad restaurants outside of the city include Rubicon in San Francisco; Nobu London; the Coach House on Martha’s Vineyard; and Proof on Main in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition, Myriad manages about ten restaurants for Interstate Hotels, Starwood Resorts & Hotels Worldwide, Inc.; Sports Club/LA; and the Boca Raton Resort & Club. The company also offers consulting services covering all aspects of a restaurant’s operation, including the conception, design, and development of new restaurants. Clients include Interstate Hotels, Host Marriott, Marriott International, and the Neiman-Marcus department store chain.
Born in New York City in 1955, Drew Nieporent and his brother Tracy grew up in Manhattan with their father, a French-born attorney for the State Liquor Authority, and their mother, a noted radio actress turned casting agent. Because their father did legal work for restaurants he was able to take the family to a wide variety of restaurants, from the exclusive to the more mundane. The boys were also able to meet some of the best restaurateurs in the city. Early on, as a result, Nieporent became fascinated with the restaurant trade and decided to pursue a career in it. At first he wanted to become a chef, and at the age of ten got his start when he began helping his mother to prepare dinner for guests. During his high school days he worked the grill at a McDonald’s and at an Upper East Side restaurant called the Duck Joint. His interests shifted to the front of the house after he was admitted to the acclaimed Cornell University School of Hotel Management and during the summer months gained further experience working on the cruise ships Sagafjord and Vistafjord. After receiving his degree in 1977, Nieporent began his career working as a back waiter, bringing the food from the kitchen but not to the table, at Maxwell Plum’s, a large Upper East Side restaurant that appealed to a broad range of customers through a large menu, moderate prices, and sense of excitement. It was a combination that Nieporent would file away for future reference.
In little more than a year Nieporent was running the dining room at Maxwell Plum’s. He then went on to work at such popular Manhattan restaurants as Tavern on the Green, La Reserve, Le Perigord, Le Regence, La Plaza Anthenee, and one of the best French restaurants, La Grenouilie, where he was honored to become the first American captain. Within a half-dozen years of graduating from Cornell, Nieporent was eager to strike out on his own. One day while jogging he took a closer look at Manhattan’s Tribeca area, the so-called Triangle Below Canal Street. At the time it remained a light industrial area with no restaurants, theaters, or clubs of any significant repute. Nieporent, however, sensed that the neighborhood held potential and, also of importance, the rents were reasonable. He then asked his brother Tracy if he wanted to join him in the venture.
By this time Tracy Nieporent had become an advertising executive at Young and Rubicon but was losing interest in the advertising field. He readily agreed to become involved in starting a restaurant, and the two brothers scouted Tribeca, finally leasing space in a former industrial building located on West Broadway, the site featuring exposed pipes and original plaster ceilings. They scraped together their savings and borrowed money from their parents to raise about $100,000. For a chef Drew Nieporent hired French-trained American David Bouley, a virtual unknown at the time, but Nieporent was familiar with him because he had sampled his cooking when Bouley was working at a San Francisco restaurant. Nieporent’s vision was to create an accessible French restaurant, one that offered menus written in English and affordable upscale cuisine, but avoided the arrogance of a wait staff that was unwilling to answer the questions of diners who did not speak French or lacked an extensive knowledge of wine. The brothers struggled for a name for their restaurant, finally settling on Montrachet, the name on a bottle of burgundy that caught Drew Nieporent’s eye.
Montrachet opened to the public in April 1985 and two months later received a three-star rating from New York Times Magazine. Cab drivers soon learned to navigate the obscure streets of Tribeca to bring diners to the new hot spot in town. Bouley also became a well-known chef, but soon he and Drew Nieporent fell out. The food bills were too high, and Bouley obsessed over each plate, causing backups in the dining room, which limited turnover and the restaurant’s ability to turn a profit. Their relationship finally dissolved when, according to New York Times Magazine, “Bouley left the kitchen to discuss business opportunities with some diners.… ‘He was cuckolding me right in front of my nose,’ Nieporent says.” Bouley was fired, given $37,000 in severance, and went on to establish a four-star eponymous restaurant nearby.
Despite the loss of Bouley, Montrachet was able to keep its rating and maintain its popularity. In the late 1980s actor Robert De Niro, a Tribeca resident, became a regular customer. At the time he was planning a film center in the neighborhood and wanted to have a restaurant on the ground floor, essentially a meeting place where directors, producers, and the like could gather to discuss projects. The public would be welcome as well. De Niro and Nieporent agreed to become partners in a new restaurant, which would take the name Tribeca Grill. Some 20 investors were also involved, including such celebrities as Bill Murray, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sean Penn, Ed Harris, and Christopher Walken. Tribeca Grill opened in 1990 and was immediately popular with celebrities and the people who liked to be in their company. It established the Nieporent “custom blend,” in the words of New York Times Magazine: “professional service, dependable food, sharp-focused restaurant identity and high-octane glitz.”
The success of Tribeca Grill also solidified Nieporent’s reputation as a restaurateur and opened up many new opportunities. His brother quit his job in advertising and joined him full time in 1991. Nieporent turned his attention to Long Island and the trendy Hamptons area. In 1992 he became partners with advertising executive Jerry Della Femina and some other investors to open a pair of restaurants. In early 1994, however, the partnership split up over a money dispute.
The common thread uniting all Myriad restaurants is an emphasis on excellent food, superior service, and genuine value.
In 1993 Nieporent formed Myriad Restaurant Group to launch new restaurants and provide consulting and management services. In that same year the company began offering operational advice to the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A year later Myriad opened a pair of restaurants. In Tribeca, Nieporent and De Niro again joined forces to open Nobu, offering the Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine of Chef Nobu Matsuhisa. It quickly became one of the most sought after reservations in town. Across the country, in San Francisco, Nieporent and De Niro struck again. De Niro brought in other investors, including Francis Ford Coppola and Robin Williams, to open a restaurant in a former Wells Fargo bank in San Francisco’s financial district. It took the name Rubicon from one of Coppola’s Napa Valley wines, and featured a menu focused on wine and cheese.
The consulting and management business also thrived. By the mid-1990s, Myriad’s roster of clients grew to include the Queen Elizabeth II, Harley-Davidson Café, the Hotel Macklowe, Interstate Hotels, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Jordan Vineyard and Winery, and Pine Island Grill on Long Island Sound. Nieporent also continued to expand his stable of Tribeca eateries. In 1995 he established TriBakery, a venture that not only sold breads and pastries at retail and featured a small café but also served as a central bakery for Myriad’s other restaurants in the neighborhood. Later in the year he opened Layla (“night” in Arabic), a Middle Eastern restaurant. Myriad collaborated with Interstate Hotels in 1996, opening the Steelhead Grill in Pittsburgh’s Marriott City Center. After that operation was on its feet, Myriad turned its attention to a wine and cigar venture in Manhattan, The City Wine and Cigar Co. In 1997 Nieporent decided to make better use of the space in TriBakery by adding a neighborhood Italian restaurant concept called Zeppole, which operated at night. This represented one of the rare times Nieporent miscalculated, however. Zeppole was soon closed, although the central bakery remained. Layla was also experiencing some difficulties and was forced to curtail its hours, eliminating lunch.
In the second half of the 1990s, Myriad made a foray beyond the United States. The company transferred the Nobu concept to London, England, where in 1997 it opened Nobu London in the Metropolitan Hotel on Old Park Lane near Hyde Park. It became the first Asian restaurant to receive a Michelin star, one of the most coveted ratings. The original Nobu, in the meantime, remained highly popular. To accommodate demand Myriad opened Nobu Next Door, which as the name suggests, was located next door. It featured the same menu as the original restaurant, but distinguished itself by not accepting reservations (except for large parties), making it especially appealing to a late-night crowd. In the spring of 1999 Myriad opened Nobu Las Vegas. Around the same time the company also opened the Berkeley Bar & Grill in Manhattan, the first venture to be entirely financed by Myriad, and closed City Wine and Cigar Co. Also of note during the late 1990s, the company worked with Interstate Hotels to open The Coach House in Martha’s Vineyard, and with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide to open a restaurant called HeartBeat inside the new W Hotel located at 49th Street and Lexington Avenue, the first Manhattan restaurant for Nieporent outside of the Tribeca area. Myriad also worked with Starwood to open Icon in the W Court Hotel in Manhattan’s Murray Hill section, and Earth & Ocean in a Seattle W Hotel in late 1999.
By 2000, Myriad owned or operated nearly 20 restaurants in New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Boston, Denver, Seattle, and London. The slate was soon whittled down by the closing of Berkeley Bar & Grill, but the company also became involved in South Florida for the first time with the opening of Rocca Mare (“Castle by the Sea” in Italian) in the tony Boca Raton Resort & Club.
With a large portion of its operations located in Tribeca in the shadow of the World Trade Center, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, forced the closure of the restaurants for two weeks, costing the company more than $1 million in sales. Moreover, it took some time for people to visit Tribeca in the same numbers as before the attacks. Making matters worse, the economy stumbled, forcing a period of retrenchment for Myriad, which included Layla closing its doors.
- Drew Nieporent opens first restaurant, Montrachet.
- Nieporent teams up with Robert De Niro to open Tribeca Grill.
- Myriad Restaurant Group is incorporated.
- Nobu opens.
- Nobu London opens.
- Centrico opens.
Myriad was expanding again by 2005 when it opened a midtown Manhattan wine store called Crush Wine & Spirits. In that same year the company took the Nobu concept uptown, opening Nobu Fifty Seven on 57th Street two blocks south of Central Park, and it opened its first Mexican restaurant, Centrico, located on West Broadway. In 2006 Myriad scored a pair of successes when it opened Mai House, a Vietnamese restaurant, in Tribeca, and Proof on Main in Louisville, Kentucky, located in the 21C Historic Hotel and Museum and featuring modern American cuisine with Tuscan influences. Also in the works was a partnership with Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson to develop a pair of restaurants at the Virgin Spa at Natirar in New Jersey, scheduled to open in 2008.
Centrico; The Coach House; Mai House; Montrachet; Nobu; Nobu Next Door; Nobu London Nobu Fifth Seven; Proof on Main; Tribeca Grill; Rubicon.
B.R. Guest Inc.; Palm Management Corp.; Patina Restaurant Group LLC.
Cannon, Leann, “Myriad Restaurant Group,” Nation’s Restaurant News, January 30, 2006, p. 142.
Gupte, Pranay, “Montrachet Founder Eyed Manhattan Early One,” New York Sun, March 31, 2005.
Lubow, Arthur, “Who Is the Best Restaurateur in America?” New York Times Magazine, March 1996.
“Master of a ‘Myriad’ of Concepts,” Nation’s Restaurant News, September 1999, p. 16.
Parseghian, Pamela, “Drew Nieporent: Restaurateur with a Theatrical Legacy Always Casts About for the Next Big Opening,” Nation’s Restaurant News, January 2000, p. 142.
Rothstein, Mervyn, “Drew Nieporent, Empire Builder,” Wine Spectator, November 15, 1994.
Zuber, Amy, “Drew Nieporent,” Nation’s Restaurant News, January 1997, p. 166.