Upward Projects, the locally grown Phoenix-based hospitality group with a cult-like following, announce the hiring of Alex Taylor as its new Chief Operations Officer. Founded in 2009, Upward Projects’ portfolio features eight unique Postino WineCafé locations in Arizona, Colorado and Texas (with three new locations coming soon to Denver and Houston); plus Windsor & Churn, a pub-style neighborhood hangout with an adjoining nostalgic ice cream parlor; Federal Pizza, a wood-fired pizzeria and craft beer spot; and two Joyride Taco House locations featuring a stylish-yet-casual South-of-the-Border vibe. In 2017, Upward Projects entered into a partnership with the progressive L.A.-based private equity firm, Brentwood Associates, to grow the Postino WineCafé brand across Arizona, Colorado, Texas and beyond.
Most recently serving as the Senior Vice President, Restaurants and Bars for the Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group, overseeing this $400M division with 80 unique concepts in 22 states and three countries, Taylor says he never imagined leaving a fast-growing brand such as Kimpton, but was intrigued by both the dynamic trajectory and, most important, Upward Projects’ unique company culture. “It’s rare to be presented the perfect scenario-a strong foundation, a vibrant culture and robust financial backing-combined to create the perfect opportunity to expand Upward Projects into a national powerhouse.”
Taylor, who graduated from Duke University and also earned an M.B.A from the University of Texas at Austin, started his career as a Phoenix-based regional manager for Starbucks, before relocating to Las Vegas to serve as the Director of Food & Beverage for the Mandalay Bay Resort and its 32 F&B outlets, 3,500 employees and $250M in annual revenue. Next, Taylor was named the Executive Director of Food & Beverage for Wynn Resorts’ Encore (13-outlets, 2,200 employees and $150M in annual revenue), before leaving to launch his own two-unit restaurant concept in Las Vegas and Austin, all of which gave Taylor invaluable experience in the power, and perils, of company culture.
Taylor’s goal will be to scale the all-important cultural character of Upward Projects, in an effort to share it with more and more people. “It’s easy to talk operations and systems and standardizing company processes because you get measurable results. But it’s much more difficult to create a dynamic soil bed where fresh, healthy, and nourishing culture can grow, and flourish. Successful companies always start with dynamic leaders, but the challenge as we grow is to transform that cult of personality into a strong culture that is lived by all.”
“With Alex’s blend of entrepreneurial spirit and high-level brand building and operational expertise, he is the perfect COO to take Upward Projects to new heights,” says Upward Projects CEO and co-founder, Lauren Bailey. “Alex is committed to our goal of ‘scaling with soul’ as we continue to bring our brands to new communities, while protecting the authentic culture we’ve worked so hard to establish.”
Upward Projects creates inspired restaurants that are connected to the communities they serve. Founded 17 years ago with the Valley’s original local wine cafe, Postino Arcadia, and formalized as Upward Projects in 2009, owners Craig DeMarco and Lauren Bailey built a foundation on historically relevant buildings integral to the neighborhoods they surround. Hallmarks include pairing delicious food with local ingredients, bespoke beverage programs and a warm, friendly culture that brings everyone together. Upward Projects also promotes in-fill development by focusing on adaptive reuse projects and creating modern “third places” that enhance the neighborhood culture they inhabit. For 2018, Upward Projects opened their first Texas location, inside Heights Mercantile in the Heights neighborhood of Houston, and announced three new locations coming soon to the Texas and Colorado markets.