In the very best of times, the hospitality industry can make for a challenging career choice. The stress is often crippling and the rewards are often few. Some fall into the industry haphazardly, while others discover in themselves a creative brilliance that serves as an invaluable asset. No matter the talent involved, however, precious few businesses can survive without the leadership of a business professional to maintain focus, steering a large team of diverse workers toward established goals of financial and artistic achievement. A business without profit is not a business; it is an extremely stressful hobby.
This was the unheralded, but highly sought after talent of keith Lubow.
Keith first hired my previous PR firm for a big, splashy opening. That establishment opened to extraordinary financial success, and has thrived for nearly a decade after Lubow’s exit from the project. After working alongside this hospitality consultant on dozens upon dozens of projects, one truth was always made clear – the success of any restaurant or nightclub is entirely dependent upon establishing sound financial protocol. No chef talent can overcome poor financials, no PR “magic” can alleviate financial mismanagement. When introducing Keith to prospective clients, I often described him as “extremely difficult. You may very well hate him by the time he has concluded working with you. However, if you listen and make changes as he suggests, he can and will save your business.” Keith spoke honestly and indelicately, but he always worked with the success of the business as his foremost concern.
Most often, these troubled ships did not sink. Oftentimes, the project objective was never to resuscitate the restaurant, but to briefly revitalize the reputation so that the owner might sell the business, with owners often enjoying large financial gains, and tired chefs discovering the financial means for a well-earned retirement. Most often with his guidance, it was a sigh of relief for an owner to escape a troubled property without experiencing personal financial ruin. Rarely were the goals of these projects understood by the general public, yet most every project concluded with the intended result. In every case, however, Keith remained adamant that there was but one goal – steering egos, media, diners, and employees in a single direction of success. In my decade of working alongside this hospitality professional, he often spoke of one very personal project that could not be saved…one project out of fifty. Keith’s professional success rate, therefore, flew in the range of 95%, in an industry that most often witnesses a success rate of less than 5%, an enviable track record for a lifetime of dedication.
Those that discover great passions in the restaurant and hospitality industry are largely due to the close relationships formed. These professionals are often working in intimate, stressful quarters, most often with more time spent alongside co-workers than with family. This was true of my cherished friendship with Keith. Many a night was spent enjoying very good red wine, while discussing clients and creating individualized roadmaps to success. (He collected rare, vintage wines, yet only drank them when they could be shared with friends and associates!) I learned as much from this man as from any hospitality professional that I have ever worked alongside. He was extremely tough, but fair. He was often gruff and difficult, but he would lavish praise upon those around him that exhibited talent and dedication, often setting entire careers into motion. Most memorable is his large, loud laugh that would echo through the restaurant and the city. His was truly a personality that was “larger than life!”
Keith Lubow was a consummate professional and a friend and confidante to many. His stunning, superior intellect could easily disarm the unsuspecting (he earned a PhD that he rarely mentioned), yet often immobilizing listeners with hilarious tales of restaurant shenanigans, all hysterical and entertaining (and a few perhaps actually true). Above all, Keith was loyal to a fault. His oversized persona, his love of fine foods and extraordinary wines, and his long lasting friendship, camaraderie and professionalism will be dearly missed.
RIP, old friend.