Connecting for a Mood Change with Guy Markarian

Connecting for a Mood Change with Guy Markarian

 It is not a surprise for Guy Markarian, founder and managing director of MG Hotel Supplies to excel in his business. He descends from a family who left a mark in the stainless steel manufacturing industry since the 1950s. Functionality coupled with technical expertise and industry knowledge allowed MG Hotel Supplies to lead the way in the service industry. It is thanks to the founder’s relentless quest to exceed customers’ expectations and satisfaction that MG Hotel Supplies remained a top-liner in the world of F&B equipment supply.  HN sat with Markarian and discussed his trailblazing initiatives in times of difficulty.

1. You’ve reacted very quickly to COVID-19 by creating the #ConnectForAmoodChange initiative. Can you tell us more about it?

After the government’s decision to close down hotels and restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were very keen on informing our  hospitality sector customers that  we are all in it together. I realized that the morale was low and that chefs, business owners and bartenders, were feeling out of place, away from their businesses and clientele.

In an attempt to remedy the situation, we came up with the #ConnectForAmoodChange initiative, a series of Instagram live cooking sessions highlighting our friends in the field. On one hand, we thought it would boost their mood and on the other hand, it would offer their clients the chance to reconnect with them while learning something new.

Progressively, the live videos started trending. The nice thing about them was the interaction between the host and the watchers. The fact that they would ask questions, send jokes, chat with each other, created a joyful environment and successfully changed everyone’s mood, which validated our initial hypothesis.

This prompted us to dedicate further efforts in this direction: We started calling hospitality professionals, and asked them to pick the topics they desire to highlight or wish to be involved with, as long as they were hospitality-related. . The impact was magical, and we couldn’t anticipate the fun-loaded result:  Chefs turned into bartenders, winemakers  became domain guides, and restaurant owners revealed their chef flair. Everyone enjoyed a role-play which was exciting, funny, and ice-breaking.

Our Instagram Live sessions featured: Chefs, bartenders, sommeliers, winemakers, media personalities, photographers, interior architects, agritourism enthusiasts, and celebrities, etc..

2. In collaboration with the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Lebanon, you’ve distributed hundreds of food boxes to support families during COVID-19.  We would love to hear more about it.

After each Instagram live session, our hospitality professional hosts would send us photos to post on our social networks. Following our hosts’ example, followers started sending us photos of their own cooked dishes, cocktails, and even food deliveries. To encourage our followers to rival the masterpieces of professionals and send us more photos and videos, we decided to offer them a spot on our page, which is usually reserved to hospitality professionals.  We decided to donate LBP10,000 every time a person tagged us in a picture of his cooked meal. Donations were used to finance AGBU boxes that include food items to feed families for a month. One hundred families benefited from this initiative.

3. What prompted MG Hotel Supplies to launch its online warehouse?

Being a wholesale supplier for the hospitality industry for over 70 years, we were getting requests from people who admired our tableware in restaurants &/or hotels and wanted to buy them. Five years ago, we launched ‘The Chefs Warehouse by MG’, inviting people to join us for a chance to benefit from a wholesale price on our exclusive selection of high-end brands. Those seeking to stand out and buy exquisite wine glasses, elegant plates, multiple-use cooking and decorative items, cutlery, fine dining and buffet presentation platforms, were able to do so. In the beginning, we were mistaken for a bazaar but clients quickly realized that we were offering them the chance to purchase branded products used in the hospitality field at a wholesale price. Being very different from regular retail shops and offering a 1,000 square meter-space dedicated to professional products, made the whole thing an experience and a true success!

During the COVID-19 containment period, we felt that people had more free time, and were excited to work on their cooking & bartending skills and develop them to a professional level. Therefore, we came up with the idea of offering them online access to our ‘Chefs Warehouse’ to help them achieve their goal. The Chefs Warehouse by MG event was supposed to take place in the first week of June. However, we knew that it was not going to happen, thus we were prompted to launch our online service.

4. How do you foresee the future post COVID-19? What is your sentiment on what will change in the F&B industry at the consumer and business levels?

Even though the F&B industry in Lebanon is plummeting, I believe that the recovery time will be minimal contrary to people’s expectations. The problem here isn’t from a business perspective because Lebanese entrepreneurs have always managed to overcome crises  on their own. However, the big question remains: “Do F&B industry owners still have the will and the drive to make their Lebanese business survive or do they prefer investing their energy and effort elsewhere?”

I think that the hospitality industry in Lebanon will compete furiously to win the few remaining customers that can still afford going out. Businesses need to meet their demand and offer exceptional experiences to incite customers to spend. Otherwise, they will go out and order the strict minimum.

Well-off Lebanese used to spend a lot of money on drinks and food. But due to the current situation and the general ambiance, they will be less inclined to do so. Their outings will be budgeted. However, out-of-the box concepts and successful outlets that are able to arouse clients’ curiosity and satisfy their thirst for good vibes, pleasant experiences, and adventures, will not only win clients over but will also succeed in making them spend without restraints. The key is to make the client live an out-of-the world experience, whether by opening a branch in the midst of a forest, or in the mountain or adding sports to the mix. Outlets that will successfully make clients forget, even for a short while, their current situation, will reap the benefits of such an achievement.

As for the Middle East, the post-COVID-19 strict guidelines such as the use of disposable cutleries in restaurants and the mandatory use of masks, will impact the  going out experience, and will surely make it less pleasant. This will negatively affect the hospitality sector’s revenue.  With the opening of airports, tourists will flock back to the Middle East. This will resuscitate the hospitality field. Only businesses that are able to make the outing as pleasant as possible for locals and tourists, will survive the devastating impact of COVID-19.

Guy Markarian 
Managing Director
UAE – Lebanon
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