Pierre Abi Haila has donned many hats over the course of his successful career. Apart from being a successful pastry chef and owning Le Noir Atelier du Chocolat, he is also the co-owner of Flint restaurant in Lebanon. Here, he tells us why he set his sights on Athens for his latest endeavor.
What made you decide to open Flint in Lebanon?
Flint was launched almost four years ago with no budget. Set in a traditional 140-year-old Lebanese house that was fully refurbished by me, my brother Pascal and Nadim and Elie Chreim, also brothers and close friends of ours, the restaurant evolved into a culinary hot spot. From the beginning, we made sure to offer a varied menu suitable for all tastes and budgets.
What is the secret behind Flint’s success in Lebanon?
We were hands-on from the very beginning. Although, we didn’t have a big budget, we never compromised on the quality, taste and portions. Being generous has always been a priority. Customers not only come for the culinary experience but also for the personalized service. Indeed, our regular guests have become part of the family, and they value the welcoming ambience at Flint. Being physically present has undoubtedly helped us succeed, as we have understood what our customers look for.
Why did you choose to open in Athens?
We wanted to replicate the Flint experience in Athens. I have a personal inclination toward Europe in general and a love for Athens in particular. I believe that the Greeks and the Lebanese are similar. They enjoy a certain lifestyle and are very particular about what they eat. Furthermore, Athens has significant tourist traffic, with 8 million tourists visiting the city every year. These numbers were very enticing, which is why we opened our second branch there.
What major challenges did you face?
The language barrier was difficult to overcome, but we managed to do much of the work ourselves. It was a real labor of love; we painted the place ourselves and did the woodwork and electrics. We put our heart and soul into the opening and it paid off. Our first day was a massive success, despite the fact that we haven’t yet launched our marketing campaign yet.
What are your future plans?
We are very happy with how things are going, so much so that we are planning to open Le Noir in the Greek capital. This is an exclusive scoop for Hospitality News Middle East. We will also launch a number of stylish pop-up bars across the Greek islands soon, and we hope to introduce Flint to other destinations.