USA Today “Meet Ben and Max Goldberg”
We talk food and travel with Ben and Max Goldberg of Nashville’s Strategic Hospitality.
Strategic Hospitality group specifically focuses on bars and restaurants in Nashville, Tenn. The portfolio has a wide range of projects that track the progression of where Ben and Max are, personally, at this point in ther lives. Not only do they have a real passion for food and drink, they obsess over the guest experience.
How did you get into the food industry and this area specifically?
B: I truly enjoy the hospitality business and taking care of people. In this industry, I get to use both the business and creative parts of my mind to create successful venues. I also love seeing others enjoy these venues. I believe that you can change the way people think about food and drink if you are able to spend time with them and show them what excites you. If you can convince them to try something new or go outside of their comfort zone a little bit, you can start to open their mind. They will forever be grateful and will most likely try it again.
M: My background is in financial consulting and marketing. My brother, Benjamin, founded our company, Strategic Hospitality, and, after making the decision that he had a real company on his hands (owning three restaurants at the time), he decided he wanted a partner that he could completely trust and could learn the in’s and out’s of the industry. Hospitality was always in my blood and so it was a perfect fit.
Why is your city a good place for it?
B: Nashville is booming right now. There are so many talented and creative people doing amazing things here. The excitement level is off the charts. I love Nashville and am so proud to have grown up here and still call it home.
M: Nashville is the most exciting and supportive city in the world. Thanks to Nashville, we are able to pursue our passion based purely on where we would go and what we think will add value to the city.
What are the ultimate destinations for your specialty?
B: There are amazing restaurants and bars all over the world. It does not matter where you are traveling to or live, just do some research, look around, talk to locals, and you will find some gems.
M: I really love what’s happening in Chicago right now.
What are your top tips for traveling foodies?
B: Ask the locals for off the beaten path places to try. I’ve had many amazing meals at places I never would have found had I not asked my cab driver or the guy at the coffee shop.
M: Go off the beaten path and try places that locals love and support. Arnold’s Country Kitchen is the best restaurant in Nashville… and it’s a meat and three — with bread pudding that will change your life!
What’s your most fun fact about your area of expertise?
M: Throughout my work and love for the hospitality industry, I have become quite the nacho connoisseur.
Where do you send visitors to eat or drink when they come to your city?
B: I try to send people all over the place! As I said, we have some amazing places to check out. Some of my favorites are: Arnold’s Meat and Three for lunch, City House for Sunday supper, Husk, Rolf and Daughters, 404 Kitchen, Martin’s BBQ. They opened one near my house and now I go there about three times a week. It is just so good!
M: Martin’s BBQ, Arnold’s, City House, Husk and Bolton’s Hot Chicken.
What trips are on your bucket list?
B: I would love to go to Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong.
M: My girlfriend and I are taking a special trip to Italy in the fall, traveling through Rome and along the Amalfi Coast. Noma in Copenhagen and French Laundry in Napa are also dream trips of mine.
What advice do you give people looking to go into your profession?
B: You work so many long hours so you have to truly love what you do. You also have to want to make people happy all the time.
M: You have to have a passion for what you do. Be smart financially, but don’t let it be your main decision maker. Never forget the guest experience; it’s why we do what we do.
What learning experience sticks with you from your career?
B: I would say one life lesson that I try to always remember is to treat everybody well. Not only do they deserve it and you never know what they are going through, you also never know what you can learn from them. My Papa taught me that. It is amazing how short conversations with people can inspire you and teach you so many new things.
M: Success is a lousy teacher. It makes smart people think they can’t fail. As we grow, I never want to think that due to our previous success, the next project will automatically be great. We will always put everything we have into everything we do.
How has the Nashville food scene transformed since you stepped in?
B: I think Nashvillians have really opened their minds to new things, and are so supportive of new and innovative ideas that it’s really driving success in the hospitality industry right now. Talented people are opening really amazing things all over the city right now, and people are going and supporting it. There is an amazing energy to the city right now, and that’s really apparent in the food scene.
M: I think that our work with Josh Habiger and Matt Tocco has changed Nashville in a really positive way. They are two of the best people at what they do in the country and have elevated Nashville forever.
How can locals actually get into your restaurants?
B: Make reservations! In all honesty, Nashville is so popular right now so people are flying from all over the country to experience it. I would recommend checking out some restaurants on “off” nights; the Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays of the week. Oftentimes you get more one-on-one attention and get to chat with the staff more.