Clarence Daniels: Making His Concessions Pay Off

A master at forging symbiotic relationships, Clarence Daniels has created a family legacy while strengthening his company's longstanding partnership with LAX

March 22, 2014

Rarely is food and beverage front and center in a public works project, but when the project is the largest in a city’s history and impacts 61 million travelers a year, “F&B” is a critical factor in the success of the project. Few know that better than Clarence Daniels, CEO and founder of Concession Management Services, Inc. (CMS), a food and beverage airport concessions company and integral partner in the massive renovation currently under way at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Daniels is a concessionaires innovator – his law degree coupled with a masters in guidance and counseling made the perfect Goldilocks combination for success in a highly competitive marketplace. Success is grounded in the people who work at the company. “I’m a coach and facilitator,” says Daniels. “I enjoy helping talented people grow and learn to be successful. CMS is my dream. For people who sign on to my dream I enjoy helping them achieve their dreams that are in alignment with the continued success of CMS.”

Daniels’ son, Anwar, had to fight to sign on to the CMS dream. You could call it a case of “reverse nepotism.” From the age of 13, Anwar worked at the company, but after graduating from college, his campaign to join the company full time hit a brick wall. “I was dead set against this,” reports the senior Daniels. “I didn’t want the appearance of giving him special treatment, and I wasn’t convinced Anwar’s path led to CMS. I wanted him to learn how large organizations operate.” So Anwar took a position at Boeing and was eventually offered a prime post in the London office. Boldly turning down the offer, Anwar announced that his future was working with his father at CMS.

“Building an intergenerational business resonated with me philosophically,” acknowledges Daniels. “However, I still wasn’t convinced that CMS was the right choice for Anwar.” Seven years later, the two have worked through a father’s impatience with his son’s maturation to forge a separation between “dad vs. businessman,” leading a mutual professional respect for each other. “We still have tension, but we have high regard for each other and acknowledge that it’s the combination of our talents that will grow and manage the business,” says Daniels.

A peak of the Daniels’ collaboration and an iconic moment for CMS came when the company won a key LAX concessions contract with Los Angeles World Airports. Anwar considered the contract a validation of the strength of their joint efforts and of his contribution to the company.

“The new Bradley West International Terminal is one of the finest in the world,” adds Daniels. “It will continue to secure LA’s role as the main U.S. entry point for Pacific Rim countries. The exploding wealth in Asia and LA’s historic appeal to Asian countries and their growing economies, and LA’s unique position in tourism and hospitality make being a part of the new international terminal historic.”

Clarence Daniels (L) and his son, Anwar Photo by Zach Lipp

Clarence Daniels (L) and his son, Anwar
Photo by Zach Lipp

As CMS has operated at LAX for its entire 19-year history, Daniels does not take the elevated level of responsibility lightly. “To have been entrusted by Westfield Airport Concessions and LAWA to help open this new terminal is the highlight of our company’s history,” he states. “We hope that our performance in this very important and historical project will position us for continued growth in the balance of LAX terminals that are being renovated.

Generational talents are part of the father and son’s charm, and a key to their continued success. Clarence was a civil rights lawyer focused on education. He fought for students’ rights to access the educational system, which he felt in turn provided economic development and opportunity. Daniels recognizes that the principles motivating him to become a civil rights lawyer still affect his decisions and philanthropic endeavors today. Clarence has woven his desire to facilitate the success and well-being of others throughout the company. His daughter, Dr. Sonya Walker, is the Director of Health and Wellness for the employees; she understands from her father the importance of a thriving team.

“The exploding wealth in Asia and LA’s historic appeal to Asian countries and their growing economies, and LA’s unique position in tourism and hospitality make being a part of the new international terminal historic.”

Anwar has a unique talent of identifying trends that successfully translate into airport concessions. “We are ultimately in the restaurant business,” says Anwar. “The latest trend is to infuse local hot spots into the airport scene. We are the first to bring a Rolling Stone Bar & Grill to an airport.”

A combination of restaurants, handpicked by CMS, will be populating a new concept at LAX called “The Food Collection.” It’s the cooler cousin of the food court, wherein higher-end eateries are formatted together. Anwar’s talent for spotting trends has required that he investe a fair amount of time in the fine art of “restaurant, club, and pub crawling.” Thanks to his diligent research, Anwar knows where the hotspots are and what’s cooking in food and beverage.     

Ernst and Young seems to agree. The firm awarded Clarence with the Consumer Services 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year, the world’s most prestigious business award, and remarked, “CMS differentiates itself through innovation. For example, the company was one of the first to introduce an all-organic restaurant in airports.”

Clarence considers success as reaching a degree of financial security that can be shared with your family and others. He says, “It’s an opportunity to make a difference, to do good, and bring joy to yourself and others.” Clarence has instilled heart into a thriving company while grooming his son to take over the reins one day. With annual revenues of $30m last year and goals of reaching $100m in revenue before retiring, the success and community efforts of CMS are in good hands.

Clarence Daniels

Clarence Daniels

CEO & Founder | CMS, Inc.

Age
64

Residence
Hancock Park

Education
B.S., Med, and JD degrees

Family
Wife, Dr. Monet Daniels; two children, two grandsons.

Mentors
Floretta Dukes McKenzie (former Superintendent of DC Public Schools); Larry Doss (former partner at Coopers and Lybrand); Robert Prass (an EVP and his boss at Marriott).

CMS Hospitality

Founded
1992

Headquarters
Los Angeles

Employees
400

2013 Revenue
$30 million

Favorite Travel Destination
Christmas with family and extended family in Jamaica

Favorite Local Attraction
Hollywood Bowl

Favorite Place To Do Business Over a Drink
Four Seasons Beverly Hills

Last Book Read
“The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson

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