Escobar building a legacy beyond the name

 

Within just two years of operations, Escobar has grown to become a multi-outlet bar-restaurant that has stretched well beyond Lebanon’s borders

 



17 years young
In the year 2000, MEC (Managing and Engineering F&B Concepts) saw the light of day, inspired by a young civil engineer’s passion for nightlife and understanding of the market. That entrepreneur was Mark Chehade, whose first endeavor was a pub in Monot called Rounders. This first successful project would pave the way for the launch of a series of fruitful industry concepts that have opened their doors across Lebanon’s bar-and-restaurant hubs, from Gemmayze to Hamra. MEC currently owns and manages five concepts with a total of 10 outlets; Lock Stock in Mar Mikhael, a café/bar; Stairway, a rooftop just above Lock Stock; La Palma, a Tex-Mex bar/restaurant in Hamra’s Makdessi street; Room for Three, a café bar in Badaro; and Pablo Escobar, another Tex-Mex bar/restaurant. Chehade believes that creating original identities and selecting the right locations for his concepts so that they stand out from the crowd have both contributed to his success. He added that throughout his 17-plus years in the industry, the trend that has stood the test of time is bar-restaurants where visitors can enjoy drinks, great food and entertainment under one roof. “It’s a package deal,





where some nights the bar turns into mini clubs with live entertainment,” he commented.

On the rise
Chehade has introduced several F&B concepts and also played a part in the evolution of various nightlife ideas. He described pubbing as “trendier than ever”, but added that there has been a shift toward “a bistronomic kind of bar concept”, where food plays a major role in the outlet’s ongoing success.

Dynamic growth
Escobar first opened at The Village, Dbayeh, in November 2015, spawning a chain of successful concepts throughout the area shortly afterward. The second outlet opened at The Backyard, Hazmieh, in June 2016 and, just one month later, a third was launched at the Printania Villa in Broumana. This year, three further branches were added to the network; one on Jounieh’s coast at Aigue Marine, which opened in June; another in Rayfoun, which was inaugurated in July; and a third which saw MEC take its success beyond the Lebanese shores to Larnaca, Cyprus, where a branch began operating in May. A new location is planned for Escobar in 
Beirut, although details have yet to be disclosed. “When it comes to outlets abroad, our next target will be Limassol, and we are still searching for a location,” Chehade said. He added, “We have received offers to open in Dubai, but these are still under negotiation. Our concept is adaptable in the Gulf region as our food plays a major role in the success of the Escobar concept. Alcoholic drinks can be replaced by non-alcoholic cocktails or smoothies in countries where alcohol is not allowed.”

Succeeding in a challenging market
The Lebanese are a well-traveled, demanding clientele and the local market offers a good base for testing various concepts, although it also brings with it challenges for entrepreneurs and F&B creators. According to Chehade, the country’s political instability remains a major challenge, having a negative impact on the number of tourists and expats entering the country. “Many F&B projects and clusters are opening despite the instability. However, only a few are doing well,” he acknowledged. “You’ve got to choose the project and location wisely, and ensure you give your bar-restaurant a solid identity, while sticking to the guidelines for sustainable success.”

mec-concepts.com
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