9 influential restaurateurs at the table

9 influential restaurateurs at the table

We asked a group of successful restaurateurs to share their insights, philosophies and upcoming projects with Hospitality News Middle East. Here’s what they had to say.

Trade secrets
We are about to celebrate 70 years of service to our clients — a milestone attributed to the strong core values that we have remained committed to over the decades. It starts with our team, referred to as the “junior partners” in our journey. We hire the best to fit our hospitality culture. We continuously seek to procure the highest quality ingredients for our menu dishes. Our pricing strategy aims to appeal to all nationalities. Throughout the years, we have prided ourselves on delivering consistency in our food and customer service.

Trends and beyond
Keeping up with the latest trends is essential for our restaurants to stay relevant. We regularly update our menus to include new dishes or ingredients that reflect current food trends. Furthermore, we frequently rebrand or reimagine our concepts to stand out in a crowded market and appeal to new customers.
We are utilizing technology, such as online ordering, digital menus and contactless payment options, to improve the customer experience and keep up with current trends in the industry. In addition, we are incorporating sustainable practices, such as using locally sourced ingredients, reducing food waste and using eco-friendly packaging to better serve customers who are environmentally aware.
Recently, we have added healthier dishes to our menus, as well as a variety that cater to specific dietary needs. It’s important to note that these are just a few examples of how our restaurants are redefining themselves to stay relevant. Trends change over time, so we need to stay informed about the latest developments and adjust our strategies accordingly.

Upcoming projects
We developed a franchise package for Mais To Go brand. We are now ready to expand in the GCC, so we are seeking potential franchisees for the concept.

Genuine hospitality through generations.

Managing director
Barakat Foods Company

Quality matters
The success behind our restaurants is based on a genuine concern about our customers’ needs. We do not compromise on quality, whether it’s our thoughtful and creative interiors, outstanding resources or superior ingredients

Ahead of the game
We try to keep up to date with global trends. The new generation has an entire set of new requirements. We also continue to modernize our systems, as staying abreast of the latest technology and know-how is essential.

New concepts
We’re currently working on enhancing and expanding some of our outlets, as well as researching possible markets in parts of the Gulf states. Further expansion is underway at one of our sister companies in Berlin, Germany.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

ATICO Fakhreldin Group

Timing is key
The formula for success is simple. We use the best products and work with great cooks; this is how we earned our reputation in the industry, and we are keen to keep it that way.
Our concepts fit the markets we are operating in. We move strategically and smart, so our expansion is always timed. Having popular and successful restaurants is the objective, not just to open whenever and wherever we have the opportunity. Furthermore, we keep everything under our full management, and our dedicated team has been active in the opening and launching of each brand; they know what it takes to secure a great experience for our guests.

New cooking techniques are constantly emerging, as well as new trends and products, so we have to stay at the forefront and understand the requirements of the market while remaining true to our philosophy.
Maintaining your identity without becoming outdated and forgotten is a delicate balance.
As a team, we continuously attend international food exhibitions to discover the newest products and ingredients.
We travel to Japan, Italy and other destinations, and, over the years, we have met outstanding chefs and suppliers who have become partners.
Many of them have visited us in Beirut to support our efforts and ensure that the food that we are serving is as good and authentic as it can be. I can confidently say they were impressed with what we built.

In 2022, we opened Ni Caffe’s second branch in Cairo and third in Al Sahel, Egypt. In Q4, we also opened Ni Caffe in Baghdad, Iraq.
Summer 2023 will be very exciting for us. We have new projects scheduled, including a rooftop venue in Beirut and another Ni Caffe in Batroun.

I believe working hard always pays off. Stay hungry and never get too comfortable.

Founder and CEO
Kamp Catering

Succeeding in business
The success of 7 Management is not down to one factor, but rather a mix of things. Firstly, our creativity and innovative ideas put us ahead in quite a competitive market, making our brands stand out. The execution of these creative ideas is done by our superb team. The 7 Management team is composed of people who strongly believe in its vision and who are passionate about customer connection. The team has to work in an environment it is happy with, and all its members must be heard and valued. We invest in our people and treat them well. Those in leadership positions must be humble.
Another factor is understanding competition. This means not simply monitoring what’s new but rather comprehending the approach of competitors in order to come up with ideas and brands that are truly unique. In addition, there is understanding customer needs and market requirements. Customers are at the heart of our everyday business, and they are at the top of all our priorities.

To us, it is not about keeping up with trends as much as it is about setting them. I am proud to say that 7 Management is a trendsetter. We give our brands unique stories. Each venue has its very own identity, meaning and values, creating a connection between the place and its guests. This relationship makes our concepts flourish.
Innovation and a vivid imagination are permanent tenants at 7 Management. In order to stay relevant or, in fact, ahead, you have to constantly deliver original concepts. This gives us immense confidence to not worry about competition or other venues copying us.
We do, however, incorporate trends from other industries to stay at the forefront.

Our brands will be popping up in multiple cities across the region. In Abu Dhabi, we will be introducing Antika and Café Beirut in 2023. Our vibrant Italian concept, Limonata, will find a new home at Dubai’s Vista Mare. Also, thrill seekers in Dubai should watch out for a brand new venue at Sayf, Dubai Festival City’s hottest addition.
Saudi Arabia, which is a young market rapidly emerging, will welcome a Lucia’s and a Seven Sisters in 2023, while Café Beirut will open in Doha, Qatar, and Antika will be taken to Manama, Bahrain.
Beyond the region, we intend to penetrate new markets. We are aiming to open Lucia’s in Greece, and to bring many of our brands to Athens. Opening Café Beirut in the UK and the US is also on the horizon. We want the Café Beirut brand to become a worldwide landmark.

True leaders create other leaders, not followers.

Founder and CEO
7 Management

Location, location, location
First and foremost, location is very important — securing unique destinations that help to create an extraordinary guest experience. The right concept must fit the right location; a simple statement but vital to ensure success.
Finally, and most importantly, success is achieved by having a great team.

Studying the market
Keeping up with the ever-changing trends and consumer demands is imperative for the overall success of the business. Landscapes progress and develop as interests and tastes evolve. At Sunset Hospitality Group, we are well versed in predicting this shift and understand the importance of anticipating trends. We travel, we visit other restaurants, and, most importantly, we never stop learning.
When launching a new venue, we undertake extensive market research into current and future trends and how well we can adapt menus once trends change. We ensure our venues and products are varied and that we’re able to cater to a wide range of palates; it’s this diversification that reinforces our continuous growth and success.

What’s coming up
Toward the end of 2022, we received significant funding from Goldman Sachs — the firm’s first investment in the hospitality sector within this region. The funds will be used to bolster our ambitious global expansion plan which is already in full swing. There are 20 additional venues that we’re looking to open by the end of 2023, the majority of which are overseas. We’re already present in 10 countries worldwide, and our market portfolio is continuing to grow, since we anticipate entering another four or five markets in the coming months.
We’ve currently working on brand expansions of existing venues in Europe and Asia, as well as launching new experiences in Dubai. A wonderful project we’ve been working on for some time is Signor Sassi. Our branch is set to open its doors in a matter of weeks.

Bring people together to celebrate life.

Chairman and CEO
Sunset Hospitality Group

Passion for the industry
In order to succeed, you need to love what you do. Without that, you might make money, but that, to me, is not the same as success. Together with passion comes purpose. You need a strong “why” in order to inspire others, whether clients or employees or colleagues. Only when you have passion and purpose will you be able to deal with major losses and failures. These give you the strength to learn from difficulties and stand up once again! My passion is food and, through food, sharing with others everything I love: nature, fragrances and flavors, seasons and stories, and a sense of belonging.

We live in an ever-changing world, and the F&B industry is susceptible to change. There are two root causes: one is related to a creative aspect, a taste for things that are new and different, and the other is reactive, a response to changes in the environment, the outlook people have on life and the challenges we face. The latter cause for change is certainly one we, in Lebanon, are very good at: adapting to the challenges and reinventing ourselves in a constantly challenging environment.

When it comes to creativity, I like to travel and explore what is happening around the world. I am most inspired when I discover a new herb or an unusual combination of tastes, a mistake in the kitchen, a smell or a complicated request. I love to meet chefs who are passionate about the food they prepare. I learn a new technique and use it with our flavors; I discover a flavor, a different way of combining things and integrate it into our traditional recipes. For me, tradition stays alive through change and adaptation.

The team and I are always on the lookout for ways of improving the user’s experience. And we have successfully adapted the ancient Armenian cuisine to suit modern trends while preserving our rich heritage.

Exciting news
We just opened Batchig in Beirut City Centre and Mayrig in Cairo. We will definitely be expanding into other markets, especially in the GCC and Europe.

Together, we can do it.

Founder and CEO
Fig Holding
alinekamakian.com // figholding.com

How to progress
Whether it’s the neighborhood hangout Reform Social and Grill or a slice of Paris at Bistro Des Arts, one of the biggest reasons for our success is that we know what we are. Each venue has a well-defined concept, with clear positioning and dedicated teams who align with that vision.
From the way we brand each outlet to the décor used in the fit-out, and, of course, the ever-evolving menu offerings, we focus on authenticity and pride ourselves on serving our guests something that’s different.
We pay particular attention to the quality of the ingredients we use, sourcing locally wherever we can and ensuring that the price represents value for money that we can then pass onto our customers.
And last, but by no means least, our handson management drives the brand DNAs, and I am lucky to be working with a fantastic team around me.

Customer-centric approach
I’m a firm believer that if you rest on your laurels, you automatically fall behind, especially in a fast-paced city like Dubai. Our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and so we always have our ears to the ground on what’s working well and what could perhaps be done differently. By being connected to our audience, our communities and our key demographics, making any necessary tweaks is relatively straightforward, as it’s guided by them.

While it’s also important to be market aware and know what else is working well with our competitors within the city, it’s also important that we stay focused on our brand ethos. Trends come and go. Instead of following all of them, we stay true to ourselves and only prioritize the ones that align perfectly with what we’re trying to achieve.

Part of our success has been my insistence on growing wisely and smartly. While it’s always tempting to change that, being diligent is something that I will always pride myself on. Projects are currently being reviewed and studied, and we have two projects that will come to life in Q1 2023 and the rest throughout the year, with an exciting entry into Abu Dhabi.

Live life deeply and take calculated risks to continue evolving and shining.

Chief executive and founder
Gates Hospitality

Recipe for success
We’ve remained committed to keeping the same standards since we began in 1961, respecting the golden formula: quality, value and taste. Now, we are the third generation to manage our brands through establishing a structured company — Ramy Holding and TR Square. Our iconic concepts can be found throughout the Arab world.

Reinvent and recreate
As the management team of our own brands, we are not afraid to reinvent ourselves, and now we are seeing big rewards. This reflects our resilient mindset.
We have recreated our menus, keeping our star items and secret recipes. We have also cooperated with international designers and architects to renovate our venues, making them cozier for our clients. We are always keen to maintain a close relationship with our audience through social media and our customer care channels.

Furthermore, we prioritize our employees, engaging with them and providing interesting training programs to refine their talents and ability to satisfy our customers. We constantly remind them that they are our partners in the production cycle and without them no institution can maintain its operations.

New projects
In 2022, we launched Al-Sultan Brahim at the Grand Sheraton in Doha, Qatar. We also opened Al-Falamanki in the city. We are looking forward to opening Al- Sultan Brahim, Al-Falamanki and Diwan Beirut in Riyadh, KSA.
While our Lebanese brands can be found in Kuwait, Qatar, KSA and UAE, we don’t open branches in haste, as we want to protect and maintain the quality of our concepts and the uniqueness of our brands.

Live the journey
We work hard because we love delicious food; every ingredient tells a story. From our fresh foods, we promise to produce fresh ideas to satisfy the taste buds of our loyal customers, who have become our extended family. We should always remind ourselves that perfection is not a destination but a journey.

Al-Sultan Brahim, Diwan Beirut and
Al-Falamanki group of restaurants

Quality and innovation
We are humbled and proud to say that our restaurants have seen tremendous success. This is attributed to our approach of keeping things simple, clear and direct. Focusing on each individual concept and engaging the prospective markets as projected whilst creating several unique dining experiences is a key part of our strategy.
We believe that quality and innovation, in all their forms, are key to providing a total quality experience for our customers, and we are constantly striving to improve and evolve our offerings. Furthermore, our focus on understanding the market, along with the needs and demands of our customers, has allowed us to stay ahead of the curve and continue to grow our respective brands.

Staying relevant
As the food industry is always changing, we understand the importance of staying relevant and adapting to new trends. This is why we are constantly researching and developing new ideas to satisfy our respective markets and target audiences, and we are always looking for ways to adapt to the changing requirements of our customers while maintaining our brands’ values and directions.
We also regularly strive to introduce new ideas and concepts, be it food, design or experiences, that exceed expectations in a sophisticated market that is constantly evolving with ever-increasing expectations.

Market expansion
We do have an incubation platform that is routinely visited, edited and managed to shed more light on Gastronomica’s evolution and future. We are excited to announce that we have several new projects in the pipeline, including a further pivot into the Asian food realm.
On a regional scale, we are witnessing systematic market expansions in the GCC in various concepts with new openings of our existing brands, while also entering new categories of the food service pyramid with exciting new concepts to cater to new segments.

We believe that food should be the focal point of the dining experience, and we strive to deliver exceptional quality in taste, space and design in a Total Dining Experience (TDE). We are committed to providing nothing but exceptional quality, and we believe that everyone deserves to have a truly memorable dining experience.

Founder and CEO

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About author

Rita Ghantous

Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.

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