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October 2, 2017

Creating “The Wow”: TAO Group’s Formula For Success

The pacesetter in dining and nightlife teams up with The Madison Square Garden Company. Their shared expertise in premier live entertainment and hospitality makes it a natural fit.

Diners at TAO Downtown, watched over by the goddess Quan Yin and her 24 hands. (Photo: TAO Group)

One club converts a cityscape to a sandy beach resort. Another has the feel of an ancient bathhouse. You are transported to a subterranean architectural dig at one venue, and now comes a new one that conjures the atmosphere of an urban amusement park. Some clubs are New York hip, others Las Vegas electric or L.A. cool.

Call this the genius of the TAO Group, which thrives on audacious imagination and the ambition to grab your attention and not let go. Noah Tepperberg, along with three partners (Marc Packer, Rich Wolf and Jason Strauss) are the masterminds of a sprawling and growing club and restaurant empire that spans four cities  including Sydney, Australia — and has its sights set on three more.

Still, to hear Tepperberg tell it, for all its size, everything TAO does begins in a room with a blank slate and a question: “What story do we want to tell?”

Kind of like Spielberg or Scorcese deciding on the scene that will open their movie. While always creating something unique, TAO’s vision, too, is to somehow capture in its venues the essence of everything that surrounds them.

“What we do,” said Tepperberg, “is create the wow.”

 

Two masterminds: Chef Chris Santos, left, and TAO Group co-founder Noah Tepperberg at Vandal (Photo: TAO Group)

When you go to Vandal, a restaurant lounge by TAO and Chef Chris Santos in Downtown Manhattan, you’re surrounded by ceiling-high murals, created by internationally recognized “vandals” — an homage to the Bowery, where Vandal sits. Marquee NY evokes a sleek, jet-set sensation, while TAO Nightclub in Las Vegas uses a 44,000-square-foot space to create the feel of a New Year’s Eve party every night. 

Just unveiled is Legasea Seafood Brasserie and the Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge in the newly restored Moxy Times Square hotel. Magic Hour features a putting green, an oversized topiary garden and if you want a unique perspective on the Empire State Building and the surrounding cityscape, you can eat and drink on a slowly revolving carousel. Like all of TAO’s properties, it is a magnet for stars, from Jamie Foxx to Rihanna.

 

No Substitute For Being There

This is all amounts to a kind of live theater, so it’s not difficult to understand why The Madison Square Garden Company joined up with TAO Group earlier this year, acquiring a majority interest in the company and its globally recognized brands, which include TAO, Marquee, LAVO, Avenue, The Stanton Social, Beauty & Essex and Vandal. The transaction enables MSG to utilize TAO’s experience and expertise in entertainment dining and hospitality, while TAO can borrow on MSG’s position as a worldwide leader in live entertainment.

“At the end of the day, what we do is remarkably similar,” says Tepperberg. “Every detail affects the experience — the way you’re greeted, the lighting, even the temperature. You expect the show to start on time, you want no glitches. A fan going to The Garden expects everything to be just right, and that holds for our guests.

“Ultimately, what MSG and TAO want is to make the guest’s experience seamless and memorable. In that way, we can help one another achieve that.”

In New York, for instance, both MSG and TAO envision the patron who has dinner at Legasea, walks a few blocks to The Garden to take in the Knicks, Rangers or a concert, and winds up downtown, perhaps at Avenue or Marquee.

There’s an adventurousness in what TAO does, as it strives to make each of its venues distinct from the other. But it is also a model for its consistency in service, starting with its hospitality staff, with everyone receiving the same training.

In some ways, TAO and MSG defy the pull of social media, the Internet and cable TV, wresting people away from their screens. There is no substitute for a live event. At the same time, social media invigorates the experience. Guests and fans Snapchat from their seats, with Billy Joel in the background or while revolving on a rooftop carousel, a surefire way to announce that these are the places to be.


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About The Madison Square Garden Company

The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) is a world leader in live sports and entertainment experiences. The company presents or hosts a broad array of premier events in its diverse collection of iconic venues: New York's Madison Square Garden, The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre; the Forum in Inglewood, CA; The Chicago Theatre; and the Wang Theatre in Boston. Other MSG properties include legendary sports franchises: the New York Knicks (NBA), the New York Rangers (NHL) and the New York Liberty (WNBA); two development league teams -- the Westchester Knicks (NBAGL) and the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL); and one of the leading North American esports organizations, Counter Logic Gaming. In addition, the Company features the popular original production - the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes - and through Boston Calling Events, produces outdoor festivals, including New England's preeminent Boston Calling Music Festival. Also under the MSG umbrella is TAO group, a world-class hospitality group with globally-recognized entertainment dining and nightlife brands: Tao, Marquee, Lavo, Avenue, The Stanton Social, Beauty & Essex and Vandal. More information is available at www.themadisonsquaregardencompany.com