Recorded January 14, 2021.
Tune into a virtual conversation with the legendary Larry Levy – one of the biggest names in the food service industry. After co-founding Levy Restaurants with his brother Mark in 1978, Larry Levy successfully grew the company from a small Chicago delicatessen into the country’s largest sports entertainment catering company. With more than $1 billion in yearly revenue, Levy Restaurants’ more than 50,000 employees provide food services to sports stadiums, concert arenas and entertainment venues from Wrigley Field to Walt Disney World. In 2006, Larry sold his entire company to the UK-based Compass Group PLC, the world’s largest food-service company. Today, Larry acts as Chairman Emeritus of Levy Restaurants – which retained its name after the Compass purchase largely due to the stellar reputation of the company in the United States.
Our conversation, led by Cresset’s Senior Partner, General Counsel Bill Rudnick, takes us on a journey from Larry’s early days at his Chicago deli to where he sits today at the helm of a giant in the food service industry and leader in real estate development, co-founding Diversified Real Estate Capital, which led to the launch of the Cresset Diversified partnership. We discuss the mistakes and triumphs of Larry’s career – and the many steps in between – that enabled him to turn a small company into a now international food industry behemoth while simultaneously launching a career in real estate development and investment. Larry also shares what he has learned as he transitioned from the role of Co-Founder and CEO to Chairman after he sold his company and the advice he’d give others contemplating that leap. Finally, we talk about how Levy Restaurants coped with the COVID-19 pandemic when so many of their partners and clients were effectively and indefinitely shut down.
About Larry Levy
Larry is a serial entrepreneur who brings his value-added approach to his many various endeavors, developments, investments and philanthropy.
Levy Restaurants – Founded in 1978, Larry built Levy Restaurants from a single delicatessen in Chicago into an internationally recognized specialized food service organization with the market leading share of sports and entertainment catering throughout North America and Europe and a network of acclaimed restaurants. Levy Restaurants disrupted sports concessions by providing restaurant quality dining and hospitality in sports and entertainment venues. Throughout the company’s 40-year history, Levy Restaurants has hosted and continues to cater marquee events such as the Kentucky Derby, Major League Baseball’s World Series, the All-Star Games of MLB, NHL & NBA, NFL’s Super Bowl, the GRAMMY Awards and the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament. Larry sold Levy Restaurants to the Compass Group of London in 2006, but remains Chairman Emeritus.
Levy Family Partners (LFP) – Larry and two of his sons manage LFP’s portfolio of operating businesses, real estate and other investments. LFP owns significant stakes in the Esperanza Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a portfolio of real estate assets, Del Taco Restaurants Inc. (NASDAQ:TACO), and Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza.
Real Estate – Larry has had a simultaneous career in real estate development and investment. Major projects have included the recently completed River Point, a 1.1 million square foot office building in partnership with Hines and Ivanhoe Cambridge; Chicago Mercantile Exchange Center; One South Dearborn, in partnership with Hines; One Magnificent Mile; and Woodfield Lake Office Campus and the redevelopment of 321 North Clark – in all, more than 10 million square feet developed. In addition, LFP has interests in Cresset Diversified Real Estate Capital, the co-sponsor of the Cresset + Diversified QOZ Fund which has provided equity for major real estate projects.
Awards and Recognition – Larry received the IFMA Gold Plate Award as Restaurateur of the Year in the United States and the Ivy Award, the restaurant industry’s Academy Award, for Spiaggia, Bistro 110 and Levy Restaurants. Larry and his wife Carol created and endowed the Levy Institute of Entrepreneurial Practice and the Levy Social Entrepreneur Lab at Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. He also received the 2001 Ernst & Young’s Master Entrepreneur of the Year Award and is the Sports Business Journal winner of the 2017 Champion of Sports Award.
Boards – The Art Institute of Chicago, Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Lincoln Park Zoo, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University.