This past Tuesday evening, a lecture hall at Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management was abuzz with anticipation.
David Grutman was about to begin teaching his seven-week course in entrepreneurship, titled (what else?) "The David Grutman Experience: The Class." The class, open to FIU students, was at its capacity of around 200 when Grutman was set to begin his first session.
Of course, because the class is described as an "experience," Grutman had to give the students a bit of a surprise.
As DJ Khaled walked to the podium, the room erupted in cheers and applause likely not heard in a typical college class. Khaled, who said he used to DJ at FIU, said the key to his success was not taking no for an answer. "I took that as inspiration that I was going to make that into something positive."
Khaled then introduced Grutman, who got the same red-hot reception.
The nightlife entrepreneur was refreshingly candid in his introductory lecture. He began with the story of a self-described "chubby Jewish guy" from Naples, Florida, who moved to Miami with dreams of being Tom Cruise in Cocktail.
Fresh off his deal with Live Nation that saw the entertainment giant acquire a majority share of Groot Hospitality, Grutman exuded energy.
The first bit of advice: "Your time is over being a kid." He explained that everything the students do — from forging relationships to behaving ethically — will follow them their entire career. "If you don't do things to benefit other people, success is nothing."
Grutman also shared insider nuts-and-bolts information about his fast-growing empire, including revenue facts about his various endeavors: LIV, for instance, takes in about $40 million a year.
Everything hasn't always been champagne and celebrity for the entrepreneur. He noted that when he decided to diversify into restaurants, by opening Komodo in a Brickell office building with no signage, "zero people showed up. People thought I was a club guy, not a restaurant guy." He then went back to the drawing board, tweaking the menu and vibe until it became a successful endeavor.
In the coming weeks, Grutman will take his class on field trips to several of his properties. It's safe to say students will encounter surprise guest lecturers along the way. But if they think the course will be an easy A, they're in for a rude awakening.
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Though Grutman's students have been treated to some theatrics — including a branded step-and-repeat at registration and branded T-shirts — the class, facilitated by Dr. Joel Fegenheimer, lead restaurant management faculty member at FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, is a real college course with rewards and consequences.
Fegenheimer stresses that the three-credit class comes with weekly homework assignments and interactive Q&A sessions. And, if there was any doubt, Fegenheimer reminds students to refer to their new instructor as "Mr. Grutman" or "Professor Grutman" — never Dave or David.
During Wednesday's session, the newly minted professor relished his role, fielding questions for nearly an hour. Questions included what he looks for when he hires people ("I want people to want to be where I am and have a good moral compass") and what his ultimate goal is ("To dominate the world").
Before he dismissed the class, Grutman asked his students how he did. After a round of applause, he admitted he'd never been a teacher. "So I'll have to learn from you."