Condé Nast graduates from the Gehry-designed cafeteria to the restaurant business

As reported by the WSJ, US magazine publisher Condé Nast is taking some of its best-known magazine names like Vogue and GQ and parlaying them into the restaurant business in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.  The effort reflects a growing openness among magazine publishers to try to capitalize on their brands beyond print, which continues to struggle in a tough advertising environment.

The restaurant venture only involves Condé Nast’s international unit, so there are no plans for a Vanity Fair Café or a New Yorker Bar & Grill in the U.S. That being said, the American magazines have been freed to reach their own deals, such as lines of jewelry or furnishings or e-commerce partnerships to name a few that Glamour US dabbled in recently.

“I think there’s been a new openness in the entire organization to experimenting, trying new things, and I would say thinking about the business model in new ways,” said Jonathan Newhouse, Chairman of Condé Nast International.

The company is establishing a new division, called Condé Nast Restaurants, that will be based in Hong Kong and run by Stuart Nielsen, a regional director of food and beverages for Intercontinental Hotels Group. The venture was spurred by the success of several licensed venues in Moscow, including the Vogue Café.

Mr. Newhouse said he hopes to open one or two restaurants in 2011 and as many as five per year after that. The company initially is targeting places like Dubai and Hong Kong and early efforts will focus on licensing Vogue and GQ, which have 17 and 15 international editions, respectively. Other cities being considered include Istanbul and Kiev.

Mr. Newhouse said Condé Nast is a family-owned company with a long-term view and would take a “thoughtful, seriously considered approach” to the restaurant business. He said the Moscow restaurants – Vogue Café, GQ Bar and Tatler Club – were done through a deal with Arkady Novikov, a successful restaurateur.

“It’s enhanced the image of our magazines in Russia,” Mr. Newhouse said. “And we’re convinced doing restaurants in the right way will strengthen the power of our brands” in those markets.

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