By Olivia Catasus
What better way for students to learn than from a self-taught entrepreneur, frequently referred to as the “King of Hospitality”?
This week, the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management invited guest lecturer David Grutman, founder of Groot Hospitality and owner of famed nightclubs LIV at the iconic Fontainebleau Hotel and Story in Miami Beach, to speak on a Zoom webinar as part of The Professor Michael E. Hurst Distinguished Hospitality Leaders Lecture Series. The hospitality-focused series provides FIU students, alumni and guests with the opportunity to meet and learn from hospitality leaders in an effort to strengthen the bridge between the Chaplin School and hospitality professionals.
Hospitality & Tourism Management student Grace Garay ’21 said this webinar was exactly what she needed, “Grutman reinforced my decision to go into hospitality by giving us hope despite the restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He showed us that he has been able to reopen his businesses with a new strategy in place and keep his brand alive – something I hope to one day accomplish.”
Grutman openly discussed how he got his start and shared advice on how to make the most of any career, “To be successful in life, guys, pick something that makes you excited to get up in the morning and that you think about when you’re about to go to sleep.”
It surprised some of those who tuned in to learn that Grutman started out as a bartender at a restaurant called Biz Bistro inside the Aventura Mall and that after working his way up to a six-figure salary, he chose to take a huge pay cut to become the restaurant's manager so he could learn the business.
“Don’t worry about the money,” he said. “Worry about investing in yourself.” It was a strategic decision that paid off. His hospitality portfolio now includes five successful South Florida restaurants, including Komodo, OTL, Planta South Beach, Swan and Bar Bevy and most recently Papi Steak in Miami Beach.
Grutman's restaurants and nightclubs are places to see and be seen and a hangout pre-COVID for celebrities like Kim Kardashian West, Justin Bieber and Pharrell, who happens to be one of Grutman's business partners at Swan and Bar Bevy in Miami's Design District.
Speaking of, 10 lucky Chaplin School students were invited to a lunch-and-learn with Grutman in Swan's dining room as an extension of the Hurst Lecture Series. It was one of the university’s first live events. Following university and CDC guidelines, students’ temperatures were checked upon entry, they wore masks, used hand sanitizer and sat six feet apart as they fired questions away at Grutman.
“It was inspiring to hear him talk about his ongoing projects during the pandemic because I am personally working on my own brand and business,” said Ariane Uy ’21, one of the students invited to the exclusive experience. “The one-on-one pushed me to not give up so easily.”
All FIU students are invited to The Professor Michael E. Hurst Distinguished Hospitality Leaders Lecture Series. Over the course of the next three months, the Chaplin school will host hospitality heavyweights such as Eddie Sardina, former President & CEO of Bacardi U.S.A., Valerie Ferguson, director of lodging at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, and Regynald G. Washington’74, president, Paradies Lagardère Dining Division.
A recording of the exclusive webinar with Grutman can be found on the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management’s Facebook page. The King of Hospitality reminds us all that “Hospitality is always going to be here… ever since the caveman days, people lit fires in the cave and people gathered. People are always going to gather.”