A few days ago, The New York Times broke the news that three groups remained in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s search to run the food and beverage program atop the 102nd floor of the soon-to-be-completed 1 World Trade Center Observatory.
When the tower opens next year, its observatory will no doubt be one of the most visited tourist attractions on earth, so the stakes are high. The three groups left vying to run the concessions — as well as the private event spaces in the observatory — are the company that runs concessions for the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys, among others, Legends Hospitality Management; GSM Projects, a Canadian company that has partnered with Danny Meyer, the man behind Shake Shack and numerous NYC restaurants and concessions; and Montparnasse 56 USA, a US affiliate of a French parent company that runs the food and beverage at observation decks in Paris, Chicago and Berlin, which has teamed with the Gerber Group and Marc Murphy/Benchmarc Restaurants.
In the days since the Times story appeared, Meyer’s name and the Yankees’ affiliation have garnered some buzz, understandably. But we asked probably the most qualified team (Ok, we’re biased; we did after all host Marc Murphy Week) why they’d be the best operator for the observatory at 1 World Trade Center.
Murphy, whose restaurants include several Ditch Plains locations in Manhattan, as well as Landmarc in the Time Warner Center, points out that he was a chef at Windows on the World, the restaurant that perished in the 9/11 attack, and another restaurant in the original World Trade Center for several years, making him both well-suited and suitably passionate about the project. “I think I have a leg up on the logistics about getting parties to work up there,” he says. As for the personal reasons for pursuing the job, he says, “I think it’s personal for any American. I would look at it as an honor to be running the food on top of one of the most symbolic buildings in the world. It’s emotional and powerful.”
Scott Gerber, CEO of the Gerber Group, works with Murphy at the Time Warner Center at his Stone Rose Lounge — which features a small bites menu by BenchMarc — and echoes his associate’s feelings about why this is more than just a business project (though it’s worth pointing out that the Times reported that observatories have become lucrative ventures, and the 1 World Trade observatory could handle 5 million visitors annually). “It’s going to be such an iconic property,” Gerber says of 1 World Trade. “It’s something anybody would be honored to be involved in.”
Both men credit Montparnasse 56 USA with cementing the organizational know-how of their team. The US arm of the French company that runs the observation deck and restaurant at the Montparnasse Tower, Paris’s tallest building, reached out to Gerber and then Murphy about the possibility of partnering on a proposal, and they’ve since worked with architects to design a space that has put them in the Final Three of the competition. Gerber says that while Meyer has earned rave reviews for running concessions at Citi Field, Montparnasse 56 USA is more qualified because of their experience overseeing similar operations. “They’re the only ones left in the running that are in the observation deck business,” he says of Montparnasse 56 USA.
Gerber adds that the team’s design calls for a massive column-free space with 360-degree views of the metropolitan area from 100-plus stories above Lower Manhattan, which will make it an attractive private event venue for high-profile companies like Condé Nast, which is slated to move its headquarters to 1 World Trade next year.
So has the Gerber Group’s famed mixology team been working on a World Trade Center Negroni in anticipation of winning the bid? “No,” he says with a quick laugh, noting that there’s no set end date for the Port Authority decision. “Once we get it, then we can figure out the specialty cocktail.”