It could have been the opening of a hot, new restaurant or a line for a big concert.
Dozens of excited students lined up patiently and socially distanced outside the Kovens Conference Center at FIU's Biscayne Bay Campus for a hospitality class—not just any class, the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management's "David Grutman Experience: The Class," taught by Miami's king of hospitality.
Temperatures were taken at the door and masked students were individually escorted to their seats that were spaced six feet apart on the open-air rooftop. They waited and then cheered when Dave Grutman made his way on stage.
"This must be the only class in the country and maybe in the world to have this many people attend. I'm so happy and so honored to be with you," Grutman told the class of more than 100 students, which does make it the biggest in-person class at FIU this semester.
Grutman is an entrepreneur, whose company Groot Hospitality, is a collective of successful clubs, restaurants and bars, including LIV, Story, Komodo, Swan and Bar Bevy and Papi Steak to name a few. Just recently, his portfolio has grown with The Goodtime Hotel on Miami Beach, a new venture with celebrity partner and Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter and producer Pharrell Williams.
Grutman started the class by sharing his personal story and how he broke into the business, taking a step back in pay from bartending to managing a restaurant for just $30,000 a year. This is the second time Grutman's taking on the role of professor. His very first course in Fall 2019 was an instant success as he shared lessons in restaurant management, design and finance, while mixing it up with celebrity guest speakers like DJ Khaled, Afrojack and artist Alec Monopoly.
"The first class was amazing," said Celesse Temes, a junior studying hospitality management. "I’m most excited to learn about how Groot Hospitality businesses have coped with the pandemic and what his plans are to keep his guests safe while being able to give them an experience they would have received pre-Covid. I’m also looking forward to learning about the specifics of how his different locations run, along with the partnerships involved when bringing his ideas to life."
Students say they are eager to learn business insight, but many admit they want to know more about Grutman's celebrity clientele, who include Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, David Beckham and singer-songwriter Maluma.
Halfway through the class, surprise guest Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports joined in. Barstool Sports fun and unique videos about sports and pop culture attract millions of viewers a day. Portnoy, who has 3.5 million Instagram followers, told students that ideas are important, but being the kind of person to execute them is even more crucial.
"Barstool took 3,000 iterations," Portnoy said. "There's no way I thought it would be now what it is, but we're quick to pivot and we're relentless," he added.
The media entrepreneur is also known for recently raising nearly $30 million dollars to help more than 150 small businesses in need due to the pandemic.
The David Grutman Experience: The Class is held Tuesday nights. Professor Grutman ended the class by reminding students about teamwork and trusting their gut.
"You kind of have to trust your people. It's important that you're emotionally intelligent, that you pick up signals, that you trust yourselves," he ended.
For more information, please visit hospitality.fiu.edu or call the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at (305) 919-4521.