In the face of unprecedented challenges, these industry professionals have demonstrated how adaptability is key to navigating change. Meet HN’s nine high-impact restaurateurs.
Aline Avak Kamakian
Owner & CEO
Fig Holding SAL
Brands: Mayrig and Batchig
Total number of branches and their location: Mayrig Beirut, Mayrig Faqra, Mayrig Riyadh, Mayrig Yerevan, Mayrig at the Four Seasons Hotel Maldives (5 Mayrig), Batchig Antelias, Batchig Cafe Riyadh, Batchig Broumana (3 Batchig)
How do you plan to adapt to and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and what do you expect to be the ‘new normal’ in its aftermath? Brief: The new normal means fewer clients who want to eat out. Creating eat-at-home experience with the same food, frozen and delivered. Creating better delivery strategies and creating more outdoor locations. Also, adapting combo-like dishes. Increasing our catering service is also a big leap that we need to do.
Motto for life: Never give up chasing your dreams, no matter how hard it is, it will get better.
Highlight of the year: Opening Mayrig in Faqra
How is your restaurant going green? It has always been no-waste, recycling friendly and green, through the plates, the dishes, the material used and printed on, mostly everything is recyclable, and the remnants of food is either taken by the food bank or taken for composting depending on the state of the dish.
What trends do you forecast? A change of behavior for people, more online trends instead of go-out experience, more need to cook at home. Digital menus will be on the rise as well.
Upcoming Projects: Working on more franchises in GCC and Europe, spreading the Armenian culinary heritage.
Co-founder and chairman
Brands: BASE; GAIA; Shanghai Me; Scalini; Cipriani; Socialista; NYX; 1 OAK Dubai; Seven Sisters; and Antika Bar.
Total number of branches and their location: 12, in UAE, Saudi Arabia and Monaco.
How do you plan to adapt to and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and what do you expect to be the ‘new normal’ in its aftermath? We will begin to see the impact and our ‘new normal’ in the coming weeks and months, as venues start to re-open with precautionary safety measures, capacity restrictions and masks. There has been incredible growth in the delivery space around the world, and this is something we are excited to explore. We are now more focused than ever on maintaining our premium dining and entertaining concepts.
In the long run, I believe that people will return to normal and that restaurants will be as busy as they were before. I am incredibly grateful to the UAE for all of the measures
and strategies they have put in place to ensure our safety, and that of our families and businesses. This country has given us a unique platform to grow, expand and showcase our skills.
Motto for life: Believe in yourself and love what you do.
Highlight of the year: In the past 12 months, we have solidified our plans for international expansion, with the opening of GAIA in Monaco and Scalini Riyadh, the first of many restaurants planned for the Kingdom.
How is your restaurant going green? We do our best to ensure we’re reducing waste where possible by streamlining our kitchen operations and sourcing sustainable
What trends do you forecast? I think the Dubai F&B industry will continue to mature. We’ve seen a rise in the popularity of premium casual dining venues that provide guests with excellent cuisine, a relaxed atmosphere and affordable prices.
Upcoming projects: Internationally, we are working on the launch of GAIA London and our large-scale expansion into Saudi Arabia. We are also working on a delivery concept that is soon to be revealed.
Chawki Edmond Barakat
Barakat Food Company
Brands Alghanim Restaurant; Mais Alghanim To Go; Mais Catering; and Shawarma Matic.
Total number of branches and their locations: 12, all of which are in Kuwait.
How do you plan to adapt to and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and what do you expect to be the ‘new normal’ in its aftermath? We plan to implement several measures. Firstly, all staff will be checked with a thermometer prior to entering the premises.
The dining area will be reconfigured to adhere to social distancing guidelines and there will be notices giving guidelines on handwashing and sanitizers at reception.
Staff will wear masks and gloves when serving customers, while cutlery will be prepacked in clear plastic packaging. We also plan to develop an auto-immune menu to help combat viruses.
Motto for life: Live blissfully.
How is your restaurant going green? We’re currently working with local suppliers to convert all our packing to environmentally friendly biodegradable options for our
Mais Alghanim To Go and Shawarma Matic brands.
Upcoming projects: We’re currently looking into franchising our Mais Alghanim To Go enter the GCC, in addition to growing our B2B business locally.
Disruptive Entertainment Group
Brands: Merou Seafood; Mothershucker; Kharouf Beirut; Taco De Madre; Vin sur 20 Wine Bar; and Disruptive F&B Consultancy
Total number of branches and their location: Seven located in Lebanon and one in Kuwait
Motto for life motto: Always learn from your failures in order to reach your goal. Keep going after it, otherwise you’ll never get there. We are entrepreneurs.
We are optimists. We see every turn in the road as an opportunity. We do not believe in setbacks, instead we see them as a chance to do something better or different, taking us in a creative direction that we may have not seen before.
Highlight of the year: creating success stories of concepts in Beirut, despite the economic situation, and growing networks outside Lebanon.
How is your restaurant going green? By minimizing plastic bags and cancelling them in some concepts, using paper straws and dealing with companies that recycle different items, such as plastic and glass bottles.
What trends do you forecast? High turnover concepts with high quality products and low prices targeting the mass population.
Upcoming projects: franchising all concepts in the GCC and new ventures in Armenia and the Far East.
Jean Claude Ghosn
Brands: Abd el Wahab; DUO; Ahwak; Fabrk; El Dinyeh Heik.
Total number of branches and their locations: 10 in Lebanon and 13 abroad (Dubai, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UK).
How do you plan to adapt to and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and what do you expect to be the ‘new normal’ in its aftermath? The ‘new norm’ will bring a variety of changes, including limited seating capacity for indoor restaurants. Online food delivery will increase and demand for cooked/grilled food, rather than raw/ green dishes, will rise, alongside home catering. Other anticipated trends are digital menus and a further increase in open kitchens, which are more reassuring
Motto for life: Perseverance and consistency are the basics of a good restaurant.
Highlight of the year: GHIA Holding successfully innovated its back-of-house system processes in 2019, enabling it to reduce its costs and maintain profit
margins, despite the economic downturn.
In what way is your restaurant going green? Slowly and surely, we are increasingly moving toward more recycled items, LED lighting, paperless admin processes and waste management of raw material.
What trends do you forecast? Innovative delivery and more friendly menus are the main F&B trends for 2020.
Upcoming projects: Developing more branches of Ahwak and Abd el Wahab outside Lebanon, especially in KSA and Egypt.
CEO and founder
Brands: Go! Greek, Go! Healthy, Go! Pasta, Go! Chinese, Go! Noodle, Go! Risotto & Pasta
Total number of branches and their location: 14, all of which are in the UAE.
How do you plan to adapt to and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and what do you expect to be the ‘new normal’ in its aftermath? The ‘new normal’ for the restaurant industry after Covid-19 will be a mix of old and new strategies. Old strategies will include maintaining liquidity, managing cashflow and having a healthy operating cash buffer of at least six months, lowering fixed overheads and shifting investments to low capital expenditure opportunities. New strategies, meanwhile, will encompass innovating offerings online, shifting the sales mix from dine-in to pick-up and delivery, adding revenue streams, like cook-it-yourselfhome- kits and catering, and developing 100 percent delivery-only businesses.
Motto for life: Stay active. Be kind. Eat well.
Highlight of the year: Growing our Cloud Restaurant business from one brand to six and increasing orders from 1,000 per month to 12,000, all while remaining profitable.
How is your restaurant going green? I believe sustainability must represent a core value for every business and for every household. Cloud Restaurants is going green
by using only the most sustainable food delivery packaging across all our facilities.
What trends do you forecast? The year 2020 will witness the rise of the food delivery business globally, with growth and innovation in cloud restaurants, cloud
kitchens, technology and logistics.
Upcoming projects: we’re developing and launching our Cloud Restaurant brands in my home country – the UAE – and internationally.
Co-owner of Ramy Holding
and president of Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs and Pastries in Lebanon
Brands: Al-Sultan Brahim, Al Diwan Beirut, Al Falamanki
Total number of branches and their locations: Falamanki: Two branches in Lebanon: Sodeco – Raouche/Qatar – Dubai. Al-Sultan Brahim : Two branches in Lebanon:
Jounieh Bay – Downtown/Qatar – Kuwait. Diwan Beirut: Two branches in Lebanon: Achrafieh – Antelias/Kuwait, coming soon KSA.
How do you plan to adapt to and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and what do you expect to be the ‘new normal’ in its aftermath?
There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic will bring with it the need to impose new measures and guidelines even after the containment period, and that will not be an easy task. While all industries have been affected, tourism is one of the sectors most exposed and vulnerable to the pandemic and its impact. While we recognize the serious challenge that the Covid-19 outbreak presents to all F&B institutions, it’s now more important than ever to observe the principles of the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, of which I am honored to be a member. We are calling on all of our colleagues in the industry to brainstorm ideas with a view to setting the new protocol, norms and regulations in order to survive this fragile period. We are confident that the tourism sector will display its usual high levels of resilience and play a vital role in future recovery efforts.
Motto for life: Live through presence and momentum.
Highlight of the year: Al-Sultan Brahim was voted Best Restaurant in the Arab World by the League of the Arab States, 2016 – 2020.
How is your restaurant going green? By keeping the same standards we’ve maintained since 1961, respecting the golden
formula quality, value and taste.
Upcoming projects: Al-Sultan Brahim, KSA.
Owner and CEO
SGR- Societe de Gestion de Restaurants
Brands: Em Sherif Restaurant; Em Sherif Café; Em Sherif Sea Café; and Parrilla.
Total number of branches and their locations: Four in Lebanon, nine internationally (Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, UK and Saudi Arabia).
How do you plan to adapt to and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and what do you expect to be the ‘new normal’ in its aftermath? We believe that from all the sectors, the F&B industry has suffered the most damage from the current situation. Our clientele will be increasingly cautious, probably share less and practice social distancing, which might increase catering services and deliveries or takeaways. When it comes to staff, we’ve always implemented strict hygiene measures and will now also introduce social distancing in the kitchen, with fewer employees and probably more shifts to minimize contact.
Motto for life: It’s not called being picky it’s called not compromising your standards, through perseverance, leadership and attention to details.
Highlight of the year: opening more Em Sherif Restaurant and Em Sherif Café outlets in the GCC countries
How is your restaurant going green? We’ve started to reduce our plastic consumption with cardboard straws and takeaway packaging. We’re currently recycling shortenings and cardboard, and working on recycling organic waste.
What trends do you forecast? Clean food, high quality and value for money. Our clients are increasingly looking for a culinary experience rather than a simple meal.
Upcoming projects: expanding Em Sherif Restaurant in Europe and opening Em Sherif Sea Café in KSA and Abu Dhabi soon.
Karim N. Khalife
Brands: Ovio; The Lebanese Bakery; Jones the Grocer; Lorenzo Pizzeria; Liquid; Little Ovio; and Espresso Bar
Number of branches and their locations: 11 outlets and four under construction, in Cairo, Egypt.
How do you plan to adapt to and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and what do you expect to be the ‘new normal’ in its aftermath?
The new norm after Covid-19 is still very vague; everyone has different assumptions. Resilience will be key. We have to endure this – we have no choice – by minimizing
damages and managing our cash and expenses. At the same time, we have to be more present in terms of marketing, engaging with our customers and reaching them through various channels, while maintaining our seasonal activities. We have to keep reminding customers of the affection they have for each place and its products. A comeback plan for post Covid-19 is essential, with maximum effort being channeled into reinforcing the brand equity and trust.
Motto for life: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Highlight of the year: Over the past year, we’ve undergone a continuous expansion in Egypt, strengthening our position in the local market. In addition, we’ve increased our brand portfolio by introducing new franchise concepts to the market, while also recently obtaining our HACCP certification.
How is your restaurant going green? We’re taking this aspect very seriously. While there’s still some way to go, we’ve taken key steps by changing all our straws and bags
to paper varieties. These issues will remain a major focus going forward; however the supplies available in the market are still very
What trends do you forecast? We are accelerating our move into the digital world, which represents a new phase for us, having launched our Ovio application, with online ordering and payment. We’ve also increased our visibility on various online platforms.
Upcoming projects: We’re preparing to expand the new franchises signed. Projects in the pipeline include: the imminent (post- Covid 19) opening of our first branch of
The Lebanese Bakery in Maadi – Cairo; the opening of two new Jones the Grocer outlets in 2020 in Galleria40 Sheikh Zayed and O1 Mall in New Cairo; and the opening of a new Lebanese restaurant franchise in Galleria40 Sheikh Zayed, to be announced soon.