5 Tips For Success From Former Hakkasan CEO

Hakkasan Group has expanded from a single, high-end Chinese restaurant in London to a $500 million global nightclub and entertainment brand. Former CEO Neil Moffitt got the brand into the nightclub scene when he opened Hakkasan in the Las Vegas MGM Grand in 2013.

Moffitt detailed his career from his days as a “flyer boy” in the U.K. to a festival promoter and nightclub owner to running Hakkasan in keynote speech March 27 at the Nightclub & Bar Show. (Shortly after the speech, Moffitt decided to step down as CEO and liquidate his interest in the Hakkasan Group, prior to the company’s planned merger with Los Angeles-based hospitality firm SBE.) Here are a few of Moffitt’s tips for business and hospitality success.

1) There is always a market for something, you just have to find it

Moffitt said he was sitting in Hakkasan in London eating duck and thought, this was it—this could be a club. “And here in America, you can find inspiration on any corner.”

2) Don’t ever be so ignorant that you don’t listen to others

Moffitt was struggling with a student bar he operated in the U.K.; “The problem was no one else wanted to go there because they thought it was full of students.”

A security guard who worked for Moffitt told him to go up to Newcastle to check out a few places that were always packed. The trip gave Moffitt some ideas that turned his business around.

3) It’s easier to partner, merge or consolidate then it is to fight

Moffitt went to Birmingham U.K. and saw 10,000 people standing in line for a club. As it turned out he knew the people who were running the club.

Rather than compete with his own club, Moffitt teamed up with them to open a superclub called Code in 2000. Three days before the club’s opening, people were camping out, Moffitt said; “20,000 people were outside and we only had capacity for 15,000.”

4) Only surround yourself with people who are smarter than you

“If you want to be the smartest person in the room, you’re limited to how smart you are,” Moffitt said. “Bring people into your business who have the brains and experience to help you.”

Your needs will change, and you may burn through a few executives, he noted, but your budgets change too as you grow, so that you’ll be able to hire really top people. The first Hakkasan club in the MGM Grand did $100 million in the first year, Moffitt said. “I was astounded I could put together a team of people who could do that.”

5) Focus on quality

That’s very important, Moffitt said. “We’re trying to create experiences for our guest, whether you’re at a restaurant or a nightclub.”

What we can’t do is not deliver on what we promise, he added. “Whether you’re here for one night or you’re a repeat customer, you should have the same experience. Whatever you’re going to promise, please deliver.”

Melissa Dowling is editor of Cheers magazine.

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