Friday, March 9, 2018

Women's Leadership Workshop NYC & A friend who has made a difference in the commercial real estate industry: Michael Whiteman

Liz and I have just opened registration for our 40th Women's Leadership Workshop - exclusively for women in the commercial real estate industry

This professional development workshop is designed specifically for women at all stages of their careers!

When:  March 27, 2018
Where:  Midtown Manhattan
Time:  12:30 - 4:30pm with wine and cheese networking immediately following!

Develop and enhance your professional presence, confidence 
and personal brand
·       Hundreds of commercial real estate industry women have attended our unique Women’s Leadership Workshops – Across the U.S. and in London
·       Highly-interactive program incorporates valuable exercises and thoughtful group discussions

You’ll take away powerful tools and tips for continual self-development!
Attendance is limited.

To learn more, read feedback from participants and register -
please click here.  

Visit our website to read about all services offered by Felix / Weiner Consulting Group.


Michael Whiteman has spent the last 40 years as a developer, creator and operator of restaurants, as well as consulting for food and beverage companies around the world.

His company – Baum & Whiteman International Restaurant Consultants created two of world’s largest-grossing restaurants - The Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center in New York, and the legendary Windows on the World, which was atop the former World Trade Center.  He also developed three of the world’s first food courts – in Japan, Europe and the United States; produced five three-star New York restaurants; created high-profile hotel concepts around the globe for Starwood Hotels, Taj Hotels, Raffles Hotel Group, and Regent Hotels, and masterminded Equinox for the Raffles Hotel Group, a rooftop extravaganza in Singapore which was named one of the best hotel dining rooms in the world.

He is well known for creating groundbreaking visitor experiences at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Prudential Center in Boston, Queen Victoria Building in Sydney, Crown Center in Kansas City, Six Flags Theme Parks, and the John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Michael’s range of work spans retail food (Kings Supermarkets, Dean & Deluca), cultural institutions (National Gallery of Art), private clubs (Yale Club, Princeton Club), theme parks (Sesame Place) and mixed-use developments, as well as individual restaurants around the globe.  In recent years, Mr. Whiteman’s work took him to Mumbai, Singapore, Qatar, Delhi, Abu Dhabi, Israel, Canada, Spain and around the United States. 

Known as the industry’s most prescient food trends analyst, Mr. Whiteman is a frequent speaker on trends, design, service, and the foundations of creating a successful business in food and hospitality.  He has twice been keynote speaker at the Culinary Institute of America’s food conferences, and has run trends seminars for Starwood Hotels, Taj Hotels, Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Club Corporation of America, Angus Beef Growers, the Ferdinand Metz Foodservice Forum and the Food & Drink Innovation Network.

He lives in New York with his wife, Rozanne Gold, a four-time James Beard award-winning chef, consultant and author.

Michaels involvement in commercial real estate has been as an owner, operator and consultant in the global restaurant / hospitality industry.  As such, over the years, he and his partners / clients have paid a lot of rent to the owners of commercial real estate.  That qualifies him right there for this interview series. N’est pas?

How Michael and I met:
In the early / mid 1980’s I worked for Mall Properties (now called Olshan Properties).  We owned and operated Cortana, the major regional mall in Baton Rouge, LA.  As retail competition started realizing Baton Rouge was a good market, we bought a 400-acre property at the intersection of I-10 and Siegen Lane.  This property was adjacent to the huge complex owned by evangelist Jimmy Swaggart.  Our plan was to build a second regional mall on that site.

Along with Mort Olshan and his partner Dick Steinberg I was invited to get involved on that project.  We wanted to do something different than the traditional food court that was popping up in malls across the country.  Enter Mr. Michael Whiteman.  I remember he and I first meeting in Dick’s office when Michael was retained as our consultant to advise us on the food court concept. Michael and I took a market research road to Louisiana to do research on the market, identify potential local restaurateurs who might be interested in taking a plunge of opening some type of food operation in a mall.  He and I hit it off right away.  He is a wonderfully dry sense of humor, way dryer than me.

At the time I was recovering from some virus and I had to watch what I ate. However, at our first dinner together I realized this was going to be a very special road trip and… what the heck!  We visited some restaurants in New Orleans where Michael knew the chef  / owner.  I must relate one story:  we’re in a one nice restaurant. Michael orders for the both of us. A little while later our food comes out, followed by the chef himself.  “I thought it was you,” he says, shaking Michaels’ hand.  “When I heard the fish order included ‘leave the head on’ I figured there aren’t too many folks that ask for that.”  Michael is clearly known far and wide. It was a great trip.  As a result, he and I became and remain good friends. 

Q.  How did you get your start in the restaurant industry?

A. I got my start in the restaurant industry but utter indirection.  After the army, I was doing graduate work in economics when a publisher of Chain Store Age, a group of retail trade magazines, enquired if I'd start a restaurant business newspaper for them.  That was, ummmm, 1967, and Nation's Restaurant News was born and it quickly became the industry's largest publication and probably still is.  Around 1970 or '71 I lost a boardroom battle over editorial policy and resigned. 

Almost simultaneously, a chap with whom I later became partners, lost a boardroom battle at Restaurant Associates where he'd created restaurants like The Four Seasons, the Forum of the XII Caesars, La Fonda del Sol and a flock of early "theme restaurants” that profoundly altered the direction of restaurants in America.  That was Joe Baum. He departed his former company with a consulting contract in hand to plan all the restaurants in the 10 million square foot New York World Trade Center, then little more than a hole in the ground.  He recruited me to join his radically creative tea, optimistically thinking I knew something about running restaurants.

We created and opened Windows on the World which was just part of a 250,000 sq.ft. Food and beverage assemblage, perhaps the largest and most complex project in the industry.  It included the first food court/food hall in the United States called The Big Kitchen.

Windows on the World got all the press attention, but it was The Big Kitchen that caught the eye of real estate people.  So we were hired as consultants to create the first food court in Europe, in the City2 shopping center in Brussels; the first food court in Japan, Anderson's in Hiroshima, and the first suburban food courts for couple in United States shopping center developers.  As a result, I was invited to I give presentations to the ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) in Paris, Rio de Janerio, Brazil and Las Vegas.

Joe and I did work for Hines, for Prudential Insurance (now PGIM), for Rockefeller's properties, Trizec, Taubman, Citicorp among others.

Q.  What career advice would you give someone who has a passion for the restaurant industry?

A.  I can only speak to getting started in either the restaurant industry or becoming a restaurant consultant.  As for the latter, I discourage people who want to join my boutique consulting firm because, as I warn them, there's no money in it anymore!  Unless there's a thorny problem to be solved (which is our specialty), consultants are rarely needed these days in hotels and office complexes.  As for getting into the restaurant business, today you need serious educational and vocational skills along entrepreneurial guts and the ability to work marathon hours.

Q.  As you look back on your career is there something you wish you had done differently?  If so, what?

A. I never really wanted to run restaurants, so I began as a consultant, took partial ownership and operational responsibility of ventures such as Windows on the World and the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center, and today am just doing consulting around the world -- In Mumbai, Sao Paolo, Dubai, Chandigarh and New York in recent years.  I wish I'd been wise enough to market my company better so that it would remain in business after I hang up my hat, which, by the way, I'm not inclined to do.

Q.  Who have been the greatest influences on your career?  How?

A.  Joe Baum, who was the most creative forced in the restaurant industry in the 20th Century.  Milton Glaser, one of the world's great graphic artists and deep thinker. The architect Hugh Hardy who failed to instill upon me the art of not getting angry during meetings, even though he demonstrated how.  Rozanne Gold, who is a terrific chef, consultant, clairvoyant, author, four-time James Beard Award winner and, incidentally, my wife.

A poster I thought you'd like

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Announcing the launch of Felix / Weiner: Women on Board

Steve Felix and Liz Weiner are proud to announce the launch of
Felix / Weiner: Women on Board, a non-profit subsidiary of Felix / Weiner Consulting Group.

With gender diversity becoming increasingly important to institutional investors in real estate, Women on Board serves as a bridge - between industry women and real estate investment managers / private equity firms / REITs - seeking gender diversity on their Board of Directors, Advisory Boards, Investment Committees and other key roles.

Women on Board is an extension of the professional development work Liz and Steve have brought to the commercial real estate industry since 2013. They have conducted 40 interactive Women’s Leadership Workshops across the U.S. and in London - attended by hundreds of women. These workshops help women develop and enhance their professional presence in a male dominated industry.

If your firm is seeking more gender diversity, or if you are a senior woman in the global commercial real estate industry interested in exploring board opportunities, please contact Liz or Steve.

Liz Weiner ( / 917.412.9351
Steve Felix ( / 917.603.5578

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