Skip to content

Sam Nazarian’s C3 Is the Fastest Growing Food Tech Platform : Business Traveler USA

Sam Nazarian, the founder of SBE known for hospitality brands Hyde and SLS, is disrupting the culinary industry with his new culinary venture C3

It’s Monday at 8 am and Sam Nazarian is on the move. These days, the founder of SBE, known for creating hospitality brands such as Hyde, SLS and Redbury, is charting a different course. His current venture C3 (Creating Culinary Communities) is laser-focused on revolutionizing the restaurant industry.

“You grow and you evolve. Over the last 20 years, we created super exciting businesses, which required me to have my finger on the pulse of the industry. Today, I’m a father of three and a husband, and I’m in bed most nights very early,” says Nazarian, reflecting on his former life, which had him working most days from 7 am to 2 am “That excitement of seeing new designs and new restaurants hasn’t died, but it takes a back seat. Now work-life balance is front and center.”

C3 capitalizes on rapidly evolving customer preferences such as virtual kitchens and mobile delivery, providing solutions to some of the issues that plague restaurants. Sister business Disruptive Restaurant Group is home to restaurants, lounges and nightclubs, among them Katsuya; S Bar from Yael Vengroff; Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails; Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s Sa’Moto at the Doheny Room; and chef Dani García’s Casa Dani.

Katsuya at Citizens New York; Photo: Courtesy of C3

Nazarian has a long history of building 360-degree experiences. Prior to selling his hotel brands and management platform to Accor, Nazarian saw SBE rise as a full-service hospitality imagemaker, creating a complete universe from food and entertainment to hotels and residences.

“You aren’t just a hotel or restaurant operator, or entertainment, or residential—you’re a complete solution,” he says. “The ecosystem has all the verticals under one roof. That was unique in the world of hospitality.” SBE operated and opened 22 hotels and nearly 200 bars and restaurants in nine countries. Nazarian had the hottest spots in Los Angeles and bought the iconic Delano in Miami Beach and Mondrian in West Hollywood.

“I was exhausted,” he says. When he began to think about his next move, he knew it would align with the culinary talents with whom he built his sphere. Nazarian started watching quick-service restaurants (QSR).

“The growth of premium QSR—Shake Shack, Chipotle—represented a great opportunity with our culinary partners. We established C3 with that mindset,” he says. “Imagine if we could take our brands and license them to existing infrastructure globally. This would give us a tool for revenue generation in an industry that really hasn’t been disrupted in the last 50 years. Taking into account the underutilized kitchen capacity in the world, we bought into the concept that no matter how great restaurants operate, they’re only, at the best level of efficiency, operating 50 to 60 percent.”

Just as he got started, however, the global pandemic accelerated the conversation around food tech with a behavioral change: Restaurants paused dine-in and consumers began ordering online.

“Covid decimated small and medium-sized businesses. And our first focus became: How do we support them?” Nazarian says. “We wanted to give tools to entrepreneurs who didn’t know how to have a second brand or market on DoorDash or Uber Eats effectively.”

To solve this problem, C3’s Digital Kitchen takes underutilized facilities and adds revenue capabilities, making them a one-stop shop for a multitude of cuisines. Existing act as ghost kitchens, generating food for delivery from C3 brands such as Kumi, Umami Burger, Morimoto’s Sa’Moto and Dario Cecchini’s Cicci di Carne—potentially adding a breakfast from EllaMia, lunch from García’s El Pollo Verde, or even late- night service. Kitchens go from operating six hours a day to 16. This platform also gives chefs the ability to distribute their recipes across kitchens worldwide at an affordable price point.

Citizens Miami Central; Photo: Courtesy of C3

“Imagine if you have a steak restaurant in Atlanta and 90 percent of your revenue comes from dinner,” Nazarian says. “Through C3, we assess your kitchen and propose three or four brands and that becomes a Digital Kitchen, generating revenue based on orders coming in.”

While also available on third-party apps, C3’s Go by Citizens app gives consumers the power to order delivery or pickup directly from multiple restaurants via a single cart. And this concept isn’t just for neighborhood businesses: C3 partners with large restaurant chains such as Hooters and TGI Fridays.

“Fridays is America’s brand with a menu that resonates with a huge demographic. They were very interested in seeing how Fridays would work with Krispy Rice, a premium Japanese sushi. We did a test in four locations.” Nazarian says the response was immediate and expansive. “What if we start putting Krispy Rice on Fridays’ app? It’s Tuesday evening and you may not want to order the Jack Daniel’s ribs. You can order premium sushi, right in the suburbs.” Additionally, C3 connects hotels with customers through food, taking over the kitchens within Graduate Hotels’ network and launching a partnership with The Westin Las Vegas Hotel & Spa for in-room dining and local deliveries.

Rounding out the equation, Citizens Culinary Markets are popping up as brick-and-mortar destinations to launch C3’s digital brands. Now open: Citizens New York at Manhattan West and Citizens Miami Central. Both feature a roster of quick-service options, while New York also offers elevated concepts from Katsuya and Casa Dani. Future locations include Atlanta and Chicago.

“I’m building these food halls like I did my hotels—with a lot less travel and a lot more upside,” Nazarian says. “I can take my girls to school in the morning and play with my little son. I always say to my friends, ‘I should have gone into tech a long time ago.’ ”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.