Okay, we'll finally admit it. Sam Nazarian just might be some kind of hospitality genius after all. Then again, if we had a few million dollars in our couch cushions, investing in Umami Burger would be a no brainer, even after Jonathan Gold called out the chain's nefarious dependency on truffle oil. SBE, the hospitality company owned by Nazarian, has invested what we can only guess is a shit-ton of money in order to form a strategic partnership with Umami founder Adam Fleischman. And what does that mean for the expeditiously expanding Umami empire?
The deal makes this Hollywood nightlife kingpin a 50/50 partner in Fleischman's forthcoming ventures, which includes a big expansion of Umami Burger, the related Umamicatessen hitting Downtown L.A. in the near future, a pizza project called 900 Degrees, and a green-leaning fast food venture called U-Ko, according to The Los Angeles Times.
With Umami on their minds, the new partners plan to bring twelve restaurants to different cities every year, with the first outside of California (Fleischman is currently bringing Umami to San Francisco, while also looking to Orange County and San Diego) planned for New York, Las Vegas, Houston, and Miami.
Nazarian appears committed to some sort of cross-coastal eating-exchange program. He recently opened a location of Manhattan legend Papaya King in Hollywood, plans to bring his celebrity-heavy sushi chain Katsuya to Manhattan, and has been mulling over plans for an L.A. Hakkasan. Investing in Umami, which has already grown to five locations since early 2009, is obviously a smart move. And even though local success does not guarantee a hit abroad, the investment should give Sam an egress out of the bottle service business in the years to come.
Still, though we're Umami Burger fans ourselves, we have to apologize to New York. After 63 years, we still don't have that location of In-N-Out you want. Let's just hope a popular two-and-a-half year-old burger chain holds you over until In-N-Out gets its act together.