With a prominent career in real estate, successfully managing properties for various high-end designer brands, Scott Gerber fell into the hospitality and nightlife business by accident. It started with an unexpected invitation in 1991 to collaborate on a new hotel project with Ian Schrager (legendary cofounder of Studio 54). Today, Gerber Group is a hospitality industry leader, the owner-operator of 15 innovative cocktail bars and restaurants from New York to Santiago, Chile
Words by Jennifer Papa - photo by Katrine Terekhova
What’s been the most vital ingredient to your success?
The people I surround myself with. Gerber Group is a close-knit community, and most of our accomplishments are because of that. Our team members respect and understand one another and that really helps us prosper. It makes for better communication and more efficient work, which lead to more ideas and growth. When everyone on the team feels recognized and supported, the working environment is going to be positive and welcoming, a big key to a successful business.
What three words do you think your colleagues would use to describe your leadership?
Focused, demanding, and compassionate.
In business, as in everything, there are good days and bad. What’s your secret mantra when times are hard?
I remind myself how much I love what I do and how lucky I am. When times are tough, I look at all the amazing things we have going on – my great family and how we’re healthy. I’m constantly inspired when I think about the hardworking employees we have at every Gerber Group venue and in our corporate office.
Do you have a mentor or role model when it comes to running a business?
My father. He passed away ten years ago, but he has never stopped guiding or inspiring me.
Gerber Group keeps expanding. When do you think your hunger for growth will be satisfied?
Hopefully, never! As I mentioned earlier, I love the work that I do, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. We expand because we’re passionate about creating places that people enjoy spending time at, and we want to introduce Gerber Group destinations in more places.
Care to share about any projects you’ve got going?
We’re currently working on an exciting project with the new Arlo hotel on 38th and Ninth in Manhattan. There’ll be a bar, restaurant, and a coffee bar, but the details can’t be revealed just yet!
In today’s fast-paced hospitality climate, how do you keep customers coming back?
Our main focus is always that all of our venues are welcoming and hospitable to our guests. It’s obviously important for their design to be on-trend, but there are places like that on every block. We’re committed to providing great ambiance, exceptional food and beverages, and warm hospitality. When you sit down at a bar, you want a bartender who can make you a solid drink and lift your spirits. That’s the place that you’ll come back to, so we make sure that all of our locations deliver that kind of experience.
Would you say you have strong intuition for what people want?
I hope so! But it’s strengthened with the help of the great people that I work with.
Are you always hunting for exciting new concepts?
Yes. My work brings me a lot of joy, so I’m constantly coming up with new ideas and looking for inspiration. It’s hard not to!
What’s the one dream bar concept you have and where would you carry it out?
I’m lucky to say we’ve already realized my dream concepts! And I’m always looking to develop new venues in places that are interesting and fun, so it’s hard to pick just one.
What are your favorite bars and restaurants around the world?
You and your wife have three beautiful kids. Have you found the perfect work-life balance?
Honestly, no, but I always try my hardest! When I’m home, I’m there and not focusing on work. If my kids are home, I’ll have breakfast with them before heading into the city. Family vacations are important, and spending time at our home in Montana is a great escape.
What life and business advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
I’d encourage my younger self to find a healthy balance between work and play. Life goes by quickly, so don’t bury yourself in your job. Find time for yourself but stay focused on your goals. I’d also say that the most essential part of a successful business is surrounding yourself with people that you admire and work well with – they motivate you to do your best.
And most important, treat everyone around you with respect. My father could talk to a busboy or the president of a Fortune 100 company. It didn’t matter what their position was, they’re all people who should be treated respectfully and equally!
What’s your personal dress code for the opening night of one of your bars or restaurants?
Depending on the season, jeans and a Sartoria Vanni jacket and shirt with a pair of sneakers or boots.