“I think New York is the greatest city in the world,” KYU co-founder Alan Omsky told Restaurant Hospitality.
So he decided to open his restaurant’s third location in NYC’s NoHo neighborhood this spring.
The original restaurant in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami was a semifinalist for a James Beard Award for best new restaurant in 2017. The second location is in Mexico City.
The newest KYU is in a space that used to be occupied by Gato, a Bobby Flay restaurant.
The New York City location differs from both previous units in that it has barrel ceilings and an upscale vibe as opposed to Miami’s warehouse atmosphere — and that’s on purpose.
“It’s important that when you go into a KYU, wherever you go, that you feel it's special,” Omsky said. “You have the same quality of food, the same quality of service, but you're in a in a special environment.”
That’s something the brand hopes to continue as it expands to Las Vegas next. The brand is opening in the Fontainebleau hotel in October or November of next year. Omsky is currently looking at real estate in Los Angeles and hopes to open in London, where The Reuben Brothers — a London-based private equity and real estate firm run by Simon and David Reuben — is based.
“We're in no rush [to expand]. We don't want to lose our identity,” said Omsky, below.
Opening in New York City was no easy feat for the brand.
“Almost seven years ago, we opened in Wynwood, there were no restaurants, everybody thought we were crazy,” he said. “And a year and a half ago when we decided to move to New York in the middle of COVID, they thought we were crazy too.”
It took almost a year and a half to open the restaurant between staffing issues, zoning requirements and fire department issues — but it finally opened in April.
“Opening in Wynwood was really easy; we literally opened up five weeks after we signed the lease,” Omsky said. “It took us almost a year to open after we signed the lease in New York.”
The restaurant still hasn’t opened for lunch, as its staffing issues are ongoing — like in the rest of the industry.
“People at other restaurants are making our staff crazy offers to try and steal them away,” he said. “So, it's a very tough process because there's a limited amount of staff and everybody wants the good ones.”
Eventually, the restaurant hopes to be open for lunch in addition to dinner. It serves dishes like roasted cauliflower, of which Omsky said the restaurant has sold over 750,000 orders over seven years.
In spite of the challenges, Omsky is still grateful to be in this business.
“Even after seven years, I'll sit down and talk to people and they'll go to me, ‘Oh my god I had the most amazing time.’ And I'm thinking ‘wow, how lucky I am getting to run a business, serve people's food and they come and thank me for eating in the restaurant, I should be thanking them for coming,’” he said. “I'm extremely lucky and extremely fortunate and I'm very excited.”