The Millennium Advisory Board will present its 2011 Hospitality ICON Award to Stan Novack in Las Vegas on March 7 during the week of the VIBE Conference and the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show.
Novack is the third recipient of the award, which is bestowed upon an industry professional who has shaped the on-premise industry and made a positive impact on it through their dedication, innovation and professionalism. Previous recipients are Jim Flaherty (2009) and Don Stanczak (2010). The Millennium Advisory Board, whose members hail from leading chain hospitality companies, is dedicated to the preservation of integrity in the hospitality industry, using its member base to forecast future trends, define obstacles, identify potential problem areas and determine conceivable solutions.
“Stan was one of our original board members, and he is both a pioneer and visionary. His work is well-respected and I can’t think of a better person for the Millennium Advisory Board to honor with the Hospitality ICON Award,” said Patrick Henry of Patrick Henry Creative Promotions, co-chairman and founder of MAB.
"Stan is an Icon in our industry, one of the most professional buyers," noted Michelle Pae, Vice President of National Accounts at Terlato Wines International. "He would always give you the time, call you back and most importantly always made you feel important. I loved being on the Millennium Advisory Board with Stan as he always shared his knowledge and insights with the group. He's a true contributor at every level."
During his more than 30 years in hospitality, Novack was a driving force in the evolution of airport foodservice, transitioning it from generic offerings to high quality, creatively branded concepts. While with HMS Host, he was responsible for the creation, development and implementation of the “Cheers” branded theme restaurant concept based on the popular television series, and he went on to lead the company’s creative teams to develop proprietary branded concepts such as FOX Sports Sky Box, Jose Cuervo Tequilería, Casa Bacardi, Dewar’s Clubhouse and others.
Further elevating airport foodservice, he worked with celebrity chefs to develop innovative concepts bearing their names for airport venues, including Todd English’s Bonfire & Bonfire Bar, Martin Yan’s Yan Can, Wolfgang Puck Gourmet Express, Kathy Casey’s Dish D’Lish, David Wilhelm’s Oasis Sky Grill and Lounge and David Burke’s Burke in the Box.
Novack began his career with Host International as a Regional Director of Management Development, and held positions including Assistant General Manager, Director of Beverage Services, and Vice President of Food & Beverage. When he left HMS Host at the end of 2008, he had been serving as Vice President of Concept Development. Since departing the company, he has been operating his own consulting firm.
Novack also extended his leadership and expertise to the broader industry by being an active and outspoken member of the American Beverage Institute, of which he is past President, and serving as Chair of the Multi-Unit Franchise Conference. Currently, he is also President of the Industry Charity “CoreGives”, and serves on the advisory boards of Nightclub & Bar Magazine and VIBE.
VIBE caught up with Novack to congratulate him on the ICON Award and get his perspective on the industry’s evolution and future challenges.
VIBE: You were a driving force in transforming airport foodservice – where did you take your cues in terms of the consumers’ readiness for a different experience and also in terms of concept development?
Stan Novack: For a long time, airports consisted of generic F&B facilities and then brands started to be introduced; Pittsburgh might have been first airport to do so. People in the airport business were concerned about paying royalties and whatnot. The first brands were Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, and they saw a tremendous increase in sales, just by this branding. So, with being able to increase the average check and attract more people, more and more brands came into airports. Then, travel was changing and evolving. The low-fare carriers came in without foodservice and then the legend carriers did the same, so we picked up on fact that there was demand for more dining in the airport. Also, in general, it was a more traveling public, so the consumer’s palate became more sophisticated. Think about it – when did you ever think you’d see sushi served in a ball park? Things have really changed.
From there, it just leap-frogged to the point of celebrity chefs, like Todd English and David Burke interested in the airport diner, and now you have The Palm at JFK airport. It’s been an evolutionary process, tracking what was going on dining and in society, as well.
The bar part of the biz is a little bit more difficult to achieve because there really were no nationally branded bars when I started working on it. I tried to take an iconic brand, whether a Fox Sports or Jose Cuervo Tequila or Jack Daniel’s – the heavy-duty consumer brands – and imagined how to change it into a living, breathing concept. What we did was trade off the name, like Jose Cuervo; because of the advertising they’ve done with the brand, there is an immediate expectation on part of the customer. By being able to satisfy the customer, meet and even exceed their expectation, we developed a branded bar. It clicked with airport authorities, the consumer, our own management. In fact, it really clicked!
VIBE: Working in the airport environment, there had to be serious operational challenges…
Novack: Yes, all the pieces have to come together. First thing to realize – and this is true of any operation - anything you do can not negatively affect the guest experience, not matter what it is. Through focus groups, intercept interviews, it’s so important to find out what they want, what they’re happy with and what doesn’t matter. Then, focus on those things that lead to increased guest satisfaction and de-emphasize the things that don’t matter. In this business, we tend to do things for 20 years without questioning. Always question.
One example: 9/11 taught us there are ways to do things you never imagine. Immediately after 9/11, there were no knives in the kitchen, no knives in the bar. How do you cut fruit for garnishes? Well, you learn how to operate in that environment. Find out what guests want and find ways to provide it. How do you fry foods and do other types of prep in an airport? Look to technology. We were first to use Turbo Chef oven, and to do ventless cooking. That created great opportunities for us.
The bottom line is that you have to have operational excellence as well as concept excellence in order to succeed. And you have to measure yourself constantly. Dick Marriott had an expression that stayed with me, it was something to effect of, ‘You can only expect what you inspect.’ QA is extremely important. Everything – from sanitation to presentation - has to be right.
VIBE: While transforming airport foodservice, you also made the time to be involved in larger industry initiatives and organizations, and continue to do so. Why is that?
Novack: The foodservice business has been very, very good to me. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously, have learned a lot and made some great friends. But you can’t just take from something, you have to be willing to give back and help others. There are serious issues facing this industry every day, and a lot of people out there trying to put is out of business, especially out of the bar business. Addressing the issues that are important to the future of foodservice drives me. Whether it’s ABI fighting those who are against restaurant business, speaking at MUFSO or other events, sitting on advisory boards - just sharing the expertise over the years with other people is crucial to the future of the business.
VIBE: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the on-premise operator right now?
Novack: We’ve been talking about ignition interlock for a few years, and it’s happening now, not in the future. NHTSA is funding new technology now - it’s happening. I can’t see anything that will stop it, and what will happen is that woman who typically has two glasses of wine in your place, well it just won’t happen any more. The beverage business will suffer. People will drink at home or won’t drink when they go out because they won’t be able to start their cars [when universal interlock comes into play].
The other thing is that the government is trying to regulate what we eat and drink through policies driven by taxation. People seem to think that’s fine, but it’s just wrong. Also, healthcare is a scary thing. I don’t know how businesses going to afford it. What will it do to pricing and profitability? Is it going to drive people out of business? The bottom line is that the government is taking away personal discretion and that in and of itself is frightening.
And of course, food safety and taxes. Everyone has to watch what we’re doing on food safety – it’s scary what can happen to people’s health. On taxes, instead of a united front, like ABI is trying to coordinate on ignition interlock, on taxes we are divided. You have DISCUS coming out in favor of on proposal, and then the Wine Institute comes out with a position that wine is not alcohol. The industry is not united on these issues, which will damage us as a whole. Go back on ignition interlock, 5 years ago they said it wouldn’t happen, but it is.
VIBE: Finally, congratulations Stan on being named the 2011 Hosptiality ICON.
Novack: Thanks so much. I am very thankful for opportunity to have been in this business. I’ve seen, done and experienced things due to this business that most people wouldn’t get to do in a hundred lifetimes. The award is very humbling and I’m really honored.
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