Director of Operations Europe - 1996 - 2004
After a year travelling, working in restaurants all around Europe, he was hired by the Nobu Group in late 1996 to implement its service and management methods in the restaurant it was about to launch in London. While working as assistant general manager at the newly opened restaurant, he went on to liaise closely with the founder Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, supervising the opening of all Nobu's restaurants in Europe. Playing a key role in turning Nobu into the most prestigious and successful restaurant group in the world, he was appointed manager of Nobu London in 2000.Under his management, Nobu London received numerous accolades, including a Michelin star and – during successive years – the vote in the Zagat Guide as the city's most popular restaurant. A major turning-point in his career, the job gave him the in-depth knowledge of the systems and organisation required to support world-class cuisine, but also afforded an atmosphere of independence that encouraged his talent for entrepreneurship and innovative thinking.
The 2003 Gulf War was an example of his often unorthodox but highly successful methods. When most restaurants were cutting back during the downturn in business, Kurt chose instead to remain loyal to his staff and the fundamentals of the restaurant. Increasing staffing levels, he concentrated on providing even better service than ever before. The average customer spend increased while food costs were reduced. The result was that from fewer diners the restaurant made even more revenue than before the war began.One of Kurt's biggest challenges at Nobu London was coping with the phenomenal success of a restaurant that enjoyed as much fame as the stars who regularly dined there. While Boris Becker's visit to the restaurant has gone into popular legend, personalities who have enjoyed quieter evenings there include practically every A-list name from show business, media or society. Its high profile diners ensured that Nobu would be constantly in the news, but made it often difficult to find a table, Kurt's solution to open the ‘White Room' – a candlelit area where diners could eat at communal tables without reservations – not only generated substantial extra revenue, but also provided an example of his fundamentally egalitarian approach.
Among his many initiatives at Nobu, the one that gave him the most personal satisfaction was organising a charity birthday party for the founder, which was sponsored by the jewellers Garrard and raised a quarter of a million pounds for the Save the Children Fund. On 12 March 2003, the restaurant was closed for 24 hours and transformed into a Japanese white forest, while Nobuyuki Matsuhisa cooked a nine-course meal for celebrity donors.Having managed Nobu London successfully including receiving a Michelin star, Kurt achieved promotion to Director of Nobu Europe with a remit to expand the brand throughout Europe and lead all new restaurant ventures.
When he opened Nobu branches in Paris and Milan, he reached the conclusion that the best way to compensate for the heavy new costs of extra regulation in Europe was to simplify the menu and implement the local purchase of ingredients. In 2003, he got the chance to try out these ideas when he concluded an agreement with a Mykonos hotelier to bring Nobu to the island for the summer. Devising a streamlined menu and using locally sourced ingredients as much as possible, he went on to run the restaurant with half the usual complement of staff. Although it had initially opened for only a trial period, Nobu in Mykonos did record business and was voted best restaurant in Greece.Created by world famous Japanese chef, Nobu Matsuhisa, Nobu Restaurants grew from one restaurant in New York to a global enterprise with 19 restaurants across 5 continents.
With signature dishes such as Black Cod in Miso, Nobu to this day continues to lead the way in new wave Japanese cooking."Nobu is the world's hippest restaurant chain." VogueKurts key deliverables included: turnover, profit and costs; kitchen hygiene; restaurant cleanliness; customer experience and brand reputation as well as maintaining restaurant concept innovation.Under Kurts leadership,the European portfolio had a revenue stream of £40m per annum, 750 staff and his role had line management responsibility for the Restaurant General Managers, executive chefs and multisite accounts departments.In all European restaurants, Kurt was not only opening new restaurants, but he was overseeing restaurant management, negotiating strategic partner contracts and embedding Nobu's brand concept.
Kurt says "Working closely alongside industry leaders such as Nobu and Drew for 9 years, their knowledge and philosophies are now in my blood. During my time at Nobu, I travelled and met an amazing cast of people, a period of my life that will never be forgotten"