Co-Founder/Principal, Botanical Hospitality Group
A native of Melbourne, Australia, David Combes has always had a passion for dining and entertainment, working in restaurants throughout college and opening his own burger establishment at just 22 years of age. His tremendous success in the Australian hospitality industry, however, is largely a product of his extensive commercial real estate background. After finding sites and negotiating leases for some of Australia’s hottest restaurant concepts, he began opening his own.
Combes studied Property at RMIT University in Melbourne, graduating in 2001. After college he joined CBRE, the international commercial real estate firm as part of their graduate program, before moving on to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) in 2002, working in the office and retail market on behalf of institutional investors and Fortune 500 companies. In his role of retail sales & leasing manager, Combes was responsible for more than AUD$500 million of shopping center and retail asset transactions.
In 2005, the ambitious young executive arranged, with a fellow JLLdirector, a management buyout of Alexander Robertson, one of Australia’smost venerable and respected private commercial real estate agencies. Heassumed the role of executive director, and in 2007 was named managing director, a position he held until 2012. In that capacity, Combes was responsible for some of the largest retail transactions in the Australian state of Victoria, representing iconic high-end retailers like Hermès, Gucci, and Harrolds, as well as major Australian restaurant operators such as Van Haandel Group, Movida, and Vue de Monde—invaluable experience for an aspiring restaurateur.
In 2007, Combes put his expertise on the line, founding Trunk Restaurant & Bar, a trendy venue featuring an eclectic multi-cultural menu. The downtown Melbourne restaurant was an instant hit and remains one of the highest-grossing restaurants in the region. In 2013, Combes moved his wife and two young children to Los Angeles, where he founded Botanical Hospitality Group with former school classmate Grant Smillie and developed the company’s first U.S. concept, E.P. & L.P. in West Hollywood.
“With Vietnam and Thailand on our doorstep, Southeast Asian flavors blend seamlessly with the food scene in Australia, and we have become accustomed to an exceptionally high quality of Asian cuisine,” says Combes. As a real estate professional who appreciates synergies, he was attracted to West Hollywood’s strong fashion, design, and culinary community along iconic and globally recognized Melrose Avenue. “We wanted to add to the dynamic food scene and culture in the area; to innovate, not imitate,” says the 40-year-old entrepreneur, who describes the E.P. & L.P. as “a collaboration between an extremely talented team of Australians that we believe will be unparalleled on the L.A. scene.”
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