Teamwork Makes Hospitality HQ Work.

Helmed by award-winning chef, restaurateur, TV personality and cookbook author Akhtar Nawab, Hospitality HQ’s dynamic and comprehensive team prioritizes high-quality service at all levels, producing systems for food and beverage concepts which consistently optimize the guest experience.

The breadth of Hospitality HQ’s portfolio ranges from food hall development and management, to Michelin-awarded restaurants, hotel operations, banquet and catering operations, and fast-casual concepts. HHQ is currently the fastest-growing food hall management company in the country, with critically-acclaimed restaurant and communal dining projects located nationwide.

Chef Akhtar Nawab

Co-CEO

Akhtar Nawab is an acclaimed chef and the founding partner CEO of Hospitality HQ (HHQ LLC), a creative consulting and management group which offers bespoke solutions for culinary-driven concepts across the country.

The son of Indian immigrants, Nawab grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. He spent a lot of time in the kitchen with his mother, a native of Lucknow, a city in Northern India famous for kebabs, biryani, and korma. A passion for cooking, born in his small Kentucky kitchen, led him to an esteemed career at some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country: La Folie, Bizou, Gramercy Tavern, Craftbar, and Craft. The latter received three stars from The New York Times and won the James Beard Foundation’s “Best New Restaurant” Award during Nawab’s tenure.

Nawab received StarChefs “Rising Star Chef” award while serving as executive chef of East Village gastropub The E.U., before striking out on his own as chef/partner of Elettaria in 2008. Shortly thereafter, he began a stint of consulting work with Mexican restaurants, notably at the hotspot La Esquina, where he found he had a kinship with its tradition-heavy cooking style. In 2017, Nawab opened his innovative Mexican restaurant Alta Calidad in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, which earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand rating in 2018 and 2019 and continues to thrive as a neighborhood mainstay. Akhtar is also the chef advisor and partner in Bar Chinois in Washington, DC.

In addition to his work as a chef and restaurateur, Akhtar offers restaurant consulting services. The team has developed a niche practice in the world of food hall development, management, and innovation. Today, they are widely known as the country’s premier food hall management firms with properties in Silver Spring MD. (Solaire Social), Salt Lake City UT. (The Local), Houston, TX (Lyric Market), Atmore, AL. (The Market) Wetumpka, AL. (Riverside Market), Wilmington, DE (Chancery Market), and Rock Row, ME. (Rock Row).

Nawab has been featured in various publications including Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, USA Today and Eater, and has appeared on NBC’s “TODAY Show,” CBS’s “This Morning Saturday,” PBS’s “Simply Ming,” as well as Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and as a regular judge on “Beat Bobby Flay.” He has also been featured in the acclaimed cookbook Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs (Phaidon, 2009) and J’aime New York: 150 Culinary Destinations for Food Lovers (Ducasse Books, 2012). In 2020, he released his own cookbook, Good For You: Bold Flavors with Benefits (Chronicle Books, 2020). Good For You embodies Nawab’s passion for healthful, delicious cuisine, showcasing his trusted repertoire of wholesome recipes influenced by international flavors and refined by decades of professional training.

Akhtar lives on the Upper West Side with his daughter Ela.

Michael Wetherbee

Co-CEO

Michael has worked with some of the world’s most renowned chefs, restaurants and operators including David Chang’s Momofuku Ma Peche (awarded two stars by The New York Times), as well as AvroKo’s PUBLIC (one Michelin star) and Saxon + Parole (awarded one star by The New York Times). In 2017, Michael opened Alta Calidad with his partner, Chef Akhtar Nawab, and has been instrumental in growing the company from a single restaurant to helming the diverse portfolio of food & beverage assets Hospitality HQ has today. Michael’s range of operational experience spans from fine dining to fast casual restaurants, hotels, food halls, and beyond, affording him the unique ability to create dynamic and memorable food and beverage experiences for guests of any Hospitality HQ property.

Rod Daya

VP of Development

Rod is a leading food & beverage expert with extensive knowledge in innovative restaurant design and construction, concept development, operations, financial performance, project management, and technology integration. His background encompasses the development and expansion of full-service restaurants, fast casual concepts, QSR, food halls, casinos, and franchise operations. With over 250 openings and concept curations, he has a proven track record of growing international brands at the Director level including Dunkin, Raising Cane’s, Wind Creek Casino, Rosati’s, along with various regional concepts. Before transitioning to Hospitality HQ, Rod was CEO of Donato Restaurant Group and has owned/operated numerous restaurant concepts of his own. Rod has demonstrated expert proficiency in successfully evaluating an organization’s critical business requirements, identifying deficiencies and potential opportunities, and developing innovative and cost-effective solutions for enhancing competitiveness, increasing revenues, and improving customer service offerings.

He has a sophisticated understanding of how to align technology with business objectives while ensuring that the company’s technology infrastructure is reliable, scalable, and secure. As the VP of Development, Rod has played a pivotal role in navigating Hospitality HQ through the start-up phase and into an internationally acclaimed hospitality group.

James Ciacci

CFO

With 20 years of experience, James Ciacci’s dexterous application of financial tenets has allowed countless business owners the freedom to pursue their passions, with the confidence that only a sound financial framework can provide. James cut his teeth working in operations for high-end hospitality operations such as Millenium Hotel and Omni Hotels. He soon transitioned to the more dynamic world of new-launch venues. Using his experience of efficiency and process, James helped concept locations become neighborhood stalwarts across New York City. Drawn to the challenge of maintaining consistency at scale, James spent time in the role of Manager of Operations for Laguardia Airport’s Food & Beverage Department. Having earned his MBA from Baruch College, James wields a formidable breadth of education, experience, and enthusiasm. Beyond his first-order contributions to his professional colleagues, his passion for mentorship grants him his most satisfying professional achievement, contributing to the success of others.

Steve Escobar

Director of Operations

As Director of Operations of HHQ, Steve oversees day-to-day operations for the various locations throughout the company. He works hand in hand with ownership, culinary, and development to best serve the variety of projects in HHQ’s portfolio. In his role, Steve ensures preserving service and financial standards at both the local and national levels.

Steve has worked for various hospitality groups spanning the greater New York and Miami areas over the past 15 years. His experience spans from very focused beverage outlets to national hotel chains. Some of the groups he has worked with have been Ravel Management Group, the Marriott, and Sydell Group.

Katie Carter

National Director of Sales

Katie brings over a decade of unparalleled expertise in Sales and Marketing to every project she undertakes. Graduating from Temple University with a degree in Marketing, she embarked on her professional journey with an insatiable passion for the hospitality industry.
Throughout her career, Katie has cultivated a diverse array of experiences across various sectors within the hospitality industry including esteemed restaurants, bars, food halls, hotels, and off-site catering ventures.
Katie has orchestrated an impressive portfolio of high-profile occasions, ranging from opulent weddings to corporate galas. Her list of accolades includes planning iconic events including the NFL Draft and the Super Bowl, where her meticulous attention to detail and unwavering commitment to excellence have consistently exceeded expectations.

Recognized for her success at achieving sales goals and cultivating revenue growth, she approaches each endeavor with precision and strategic foresight. Katie’s dedication to enhancing guest experiences and fostering enduring connections resonates throughout her work.

Isak Buan

Director of Culinary

Isak is the culinary manager for HHQ, providing back-of-house support and management for HHQ’s culinary outlets. Isak’s training and experience runs from his first job in high school at Danny Meyer’s Eleven Madison Hot Dog Cart, busy neighborhood spots such as Win Son and Win Son Bakery in Brooklyn, to seven years spent with Andrew Carmellini’s NOHO Hospitality at Lafayette, Bar Primi, and Locanda Verde.

His ability to manage styles of service from fast food to fine dining gives him a unique skill set to help operate the various kitchens within HHQ.

Josephine Mercado

Marketing Coordinator

Josephine serves as the firm’s in-house marketing expert, developing marketing. collateral, digital campaigns, and social media presence for the firm and all of its projects. She studied Communications and Economics at the University of Vermont, while accumulating over 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry. With a passion for the intersection of culinary arts and strategic marketing, her hands-on experience in the field has equipped her with a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities within the restaurant and hospitality sector.

In her free time, Josephine can be found exploring the latest culinary trends, attending food festivals, and staying abreast of the industry’s pulse. Her love for diverse cuisines fuels her creativity, providing a fresh view that translates into innovative marketing campaigns.