While the global pandemic has hit the nightlife industry hard, 7 Management —a leading company on the F&B scene and creator of bar and restaurant concepts —has continued to expand into new markets. We spoke to Rabih Fakhreddine, the firm’s CEO, to discover more about his vision for the company and the latest projects his
team has been working on.
What can you tell us about your upcoming projects, given that the Covid-19 pandemic has failed to halt your new ventures?
We have an incredibly exciting pipeline of new concepts launching in the next 12 months in the UAE and further afield.
The Theatre by Antika is set to open at The Fairmont Hotel SZR in January 2021, an elevated destination for world class entertainment, with inspirational live shows, acts and Levantine cuisine. B018 is also due to open at the Dubai Media One Hotel in January 2021, as well as a café concept in Downtown Dubai and Feb30 on the West Palm later in the year. We also have two more collaborations planned with Bulldozer Group, to launch a unique and tropical rooftop and a beach club. Outside of the UAE, Feb30 will be opening in Athens in 2021 and Antika Bar Doha has just opened its doors last month at The Kempinski Hotel on The Pearl Qatar.
What factors did you take into consideration when planning these new concepts?
I have been in the F&B industry since 2012 and over the past eight years, I have fully immersed myself in every single
aspect of the business. From understanding consumer behaviors and trends, to also attending F&B behaviors and exhibitions in Vegas, Chicago and other parts of the world. Gaining insights into varying market dynamics has been incredibly fruitful to my vision and planning for future concepts. It is vital to ensure we are constantly evolving to remain relevant and stay ahead of trends in this industry. We consider the expectations of our guests and clients, and mold our offerings accordingly, by regularly reengineering crucial elements, such as menus according to tastes and
seasons, as well as staying up to date with musical trends. Covid-19 has challenged our industry and we have had to adapt our strategy and business model for our current and future concepts. It has given us the opportunity to be far more creative and innovative in our offering, be it in how we present nightlife, live entertainment or dining experiences and also investing and focusing on technology.
Are you expanding through partnerships or through franchises?
We are focusing on both. We have a wonderful partnership with Bulldozer Group who are world-class leaders in luxury dining. Our union over the past three years has proved to be a winning formula and I believe we complement each other perfectly in terms of nightlife and entertainment coupled with exquisite fine dining. We have also been working with Dubai Developments, one of the largest multidisciplinary property development
companies here in the UAE. We are franchising our homegrown concept, Antika, with Al Fardan Hospitality Group in Qatar and, as said, are excited to announce that Antika Bar Doha has just opened in The Kempinski Hotel. And we will also open a franchise of B018 in Dubai in January next year. I have a strong belief that franchising your own brand is a testament to the strength of your business and concept, and I am beyond proud that our homegrown Lebanese brands are now being exported regionally and globally. I have unwavering support and commitment to Lebanon and its people; it is such a privilege that our company can enable career opportunities for them and showcase their superb talent here in Dubai and further afield. On a personal level, I relocated to Dubai after the explosions in Beirut and I am proud to call Dubai my second home. I am incredibly grateful for the support an inclusion that all us Lebanese nationals have been shown by the UAE. Beirut is such an inspiration to me. Its cultural renaissance, trailblazing fashion, world-class cuisine, café culture and perhaps most importantly the resilience and determination of its people are incredible and my ultimate hope is that one day soon, we can return.
Have investments trends changed after Covid-19? Are markets riskier on the financial side?
All industries have suffered as a result of Covid-19, especially F&B, however our industry, has shown incredible resilience and proved itself to be bulletproof. I believe we have come through the other side and the future is undeniably bright. We have seen a huge appetite for investment opportunities especially here in the UAE as Dubai has upheld itself as financially robust and economically secure.
While we saw a drop of 30-50 percent in sales initially, we adapted our business model and set in place a crisis management plan with financial planning and budgeting for the future as a core focus that has enabled us to continue operating successfully. The crisis forced us to become even more creative and equally cost efficient, which are skills that can transform any company.
Which market(s) did you select for your new developments and why?
Dubai is a globally recognized hub, especially for F&B. Given the robust financial economy, safe environment and the vast cosmopolitan crowd, it was a no-brainer for us to showcase our brands here. We also have a strategic expansion plan for Riyadh and Jeddah. The KSA market not only has the largest population in the GCC but also one of the world’s youngest with the significant cultural changes and increasing demand from tourists locally and internationally, it is a great market to launch into. We are also looking at expanding into North Africa – and Cairo specifically – in 2021.
I have always wanted to create a presence in Europe, and after a lot of research, I felt that Greece would be the best place to start. It is one of the biggest tourist destinations globally, with incredible history and architecture, food, weather and beaches. Whilst Mykonos has star quality in attracting a glamorous crowd, I felt that Athens was a perfect fit for our brand, it is a beautiful and bustling metropolis with many similarities to Beirut. We are in the process of developing a new beach club concept, a well-known Italian franchise and opening Seven Sisters there soon.
Do you think that the impact of Covid-19 will be felt on the F&B industry for some time and what new factors do restaurateurs need to bear in mind in the meantime?
While we have seen a lot of new measures, such as social distancing within venues, increased levels of hygiene and safety procedures and QR codes, once a vaccine is successfully and accurately rolled out, we will see a strong F&B recovery with a reduction in restrictions and solid consumer confidence with a renewed and celebratory energy. I believe that F&B operators must maintain the foresight to adapt, be innovative and creative, which is critical to surviving and thriving now and in the future.
Where do you see your group in the coming few years?
My vision for the future is to be a globally recognized trendsetter within the F&B, hospitality and entertainment industry. The year 2021 is a big one for us, as we continue our expansion into the European markets as well as the US in a few years’ time. We will continue to diversify our interests, more specifically with our own brand of boutique hotels and a new F&B hub that integrates
innovative technologies. I have big ambitions and thrive on creating incredible consumer experiences.