New York has always been a central part of Robert Cummins’ life and career.
As a music executive in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Brooklyn, NY, native worked alongside New York’s finest such as Jay-Z, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Mary J. Blige, The Notorious B.I.G, and also discovered Foxy Brown.
After finding great success in the music business, the former executive vice president of MCA Records went on to pivot into hospitality and business.
In an interview with AFROTECH, Cummins recalled developing a market to build four IHOPs in Brooklyn in 2007. Soon enough, he was approached with an opportunity to transform a Dennys into another IHOP location.
However, instead, Cummins and his business partners decided to conceptualize an upscale, dining establishment that fused Chinese cuisine and American steak — Brooklyn Chop House.
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Founded in 2018, its first location opened on Nassau Street. The menu features filet mignon, peking duck, satay, dumplings, and more.
“We decided to merge [Beijing Chinese style of cooking] with an American steakhouse concept similar to Del Frisco’s or Mastro’s,” Cummins shared with AFROTECH. “And we thought it would be a more exciting menu to have the two of them together versus just having a regular steakhouse. We wanted to be creative, and it paid off. People really gravitated to the mixture of the two menus.”
The restaurant has seen celebrity clientele including 50 Cent, DaBaby, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Hart, Cardi B, Lil Baby, and more.
In March 2022, Brooklyn Chop House opened a second location in Times Square. Additionally, the restaurant had a weeklong pop-up during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2022 Formula 1 event.
Cummins also shared with AFROTECH that he and his team have set sights on a permanent location at the W Abu Dhabi hotel for 2024. Plus, they’re working on potential deals in London and Miami, FL.
While Cummins has been thriving as CEO of Brooklyn Chop House, a multi-unit franchisee of IHOPs and franchisee and partner of Brooklyn Dumpling Shop, it’s far from his first attempt at running a successful restaurant. He stressed the fact that he first had to face failure to reach where he is today as a restaurateur.
“I had a few other restaurants and it took some time — actually 17 years — to get to this point of owning a higher-end fine dining restaurant,” he said. “I had to take my failures and those failures I learned from. Not every restaurant worked. This is my 16th restaurant, so I still have eight open today. But I learned from my mistakes and was able to continuously grow. And I didn’t give up. I was persistent. I wanted to win. I knew there was something out there that I wanted to own.”
Cummins hopes his nearly 20-year journey can be a source of encouragement for more people in the Black community hoping to open their own restaurants. Additionally, he takes delight in being able to lead a company that has a majority of Black and brown employees.
In addition to going global, Brooklyn Chop House is on its way to retail shelves. Cummins shared that the company has partnered with Patti Labelle to have a frozen food line in Walmart stores, which has been two years in the making.
“By the success that she’s had with her line with Walmart, it enabled us to come in and get approved in a record amount of time, and hopefully we’re on shelves there,” he shared with us. “And then with that success, hopefully, everything goes well and then we can go into other retail outlets like Target and Kroger’s and so on. That’s another part of our business that we’re excited about and looking forward to in the future.”