Setting the standard with Charbel Mhanna, CEO of Blackspoon

Setting the standard with Charbel Mhanna, CEO of Blackspoon

Charbel Mhanna CEO of Blackspoon

In the fast-paced world of culinary innovation, Charbel Mhanna, CEO of Blackspoon, drives forward a vision that blends gastronomic excellence with authenticity. Here, Mhanna discusses his leadership style, the future of Blackspoon and how it is setting a new benchmark in the global restaurant industry.

What inspired your dynamic approach to expanding and developing restaurant concepts?

My journey in the F&B industry has always been fueled by a deep passion for the culinary arts. Additionally, it’s a commitment to creating memorable dining experiences. What inspired my dynamic approach to expanding and developing restaurant concepts was a blend of personal experiences. These experiences are combined with market observations. I’ve always believed that a successful restaurant is more than just a place to eat; it’s a destination where guests can enjoy a holistic experience. This experience delights all their senses.

Traveling extensively, I’ve been exposed to diverse cuisines, cultures and dining trends. This has broadened my perspective significantly.

Furthermore, understanding the evolving preferences of consumers and the importance of staying ahead in a competitive market has been a driving force, leading me to constantly innovate and adapt. So, by integrating these insights with a strong focus on quality, authenticity and exceptional service, I’ve been able to create unique concepts. These concepts resonate with our guests and keep them coming back.

My goal is to build restaurants that not only serve outstanding food but also create a lasting impact on the community. Additionally, I aim to set new standards in the industry.

Moreover, my vision, combined with a dedicated team and a relentless pursuit of excellence, has been the cornerstone of Blackspoon’s success and growth.

As a visionary in the industry, what trends do you foresee shaping the future of F&B in the region?

The digital transformation is set to revolutionize the dining experience. Consequently, AI-driven personalized dining recommendations and seamless online reservations and delivery systems will play crucial roles. These roles will enhance customer convenience and engagement.

Another significant trend is the demand for health-focused dining options. This trend has led to a resurgence of interest in local and authentic cuisines. People are now seeking to reconnect with their roots. This has led to a greater appreciation for traditional dishes that are made with locally sourced, clean ingredients. This trend not only supports local farmers and producers but also adds value to the culinary landscape, enriching it with diverse and healthy flavors.

Last but not least, the experiential dining trend will continue to gain momentum. Diners are looking for unique and immersive experiences. These experiences go beyond just food. They include thematic restaurants, live cooking demonstrations and interactive dining experiences.

At Blackspoon, we are striving to embrace all these trends. We are doing this across our different concepts. These trends will be key to staying relevant and successful.

Ibn AlBahr has been praised for its authenticity and affordability, earning numerous awards. How do you maintain this balance while ensuring consistent quality across multiple outlets?

Maintaining the balance of authenticity, affordability and consistent quality across multiple outlets is a cornerstone of Ibn AlBahr’s success. We achieve this through a meticulous approach that combines several key elements, one of which is sourcing the freshest and highest-quality ingredients. This commitment to quality starts with building strong relationships with trusted local suppliers who share our dedication to sustainability and excellence.

Furthermore, our culinary team plays a vital role in preserving authenticity and consistency. We invest in comprehensive training programs for our chefs and staff. These programs emphasize traditional techniques and recipes defining our brand. Moreover, regular quality checks and standard operating procedures are in place. These procedures ensure that every dish served meets our high standards, regardless of the location.

Affordability is achieved through efficient operational strategies and cost management without compromising on the quality of our offerings. By streamlining our supply chain and leveraging economies of scale, we aim to keep prices accessible yet profitable.

We also prioritize customer feedback, refining our menu and service based on insights to meet expectations and preferences.

Your restaurants have received many accolades. What benefits do these accolades bring and what challenges did you face in achieving such milestones?

Accolades are usually beneficial for establishing a positive reputation and credibility. They boost our visibility, drawing attention from food enthusiasts, critics and media. This attention drives higher traffic to our venues and increases customer loyalty. Furthermore, the prestige associated with these awards opens up opportunities for collaborations, partnerships and expansions, solidifying our brand’s position in the market.

To me, awards serve as a testament to our commitment to quality, authenticity and excellence. They also serve as motivation to our team, fostering a sense of pride and accomplishment. Awards encourage us to continuously strive for excellence. They inspire us to innovate and uphold the high standards that have earned us such praise.

However, reaching these milestones hasn’t been without challenges. Maintaining consistent quality and service across multiple locations requires rigorous training, efficient management and a robust supply chain. We’ve faced the pressure of meeting high expectations. This demand necessitates continuous improvement and innovation.

Balancing authenticity with modern dining trends poses a challenge. We aim to stay true to our roots while appealing to evolving customer preferences. Despite these challenges, our dedication to excellence remains steadfast. The hard work of our talented team and our unwavering focus on delivering exceptional dining experiences have enabled us to overcome obstacles. This approach has allowed us to achieve recognition in the industry.

Ibn AlBahr’s recognition in the Michelin Guide underscores its excellence in seafood. Could you elaborate on this achievement and outline your expansion plans for Ibn AlBahr?

Being recognized in the Michelin Guide is a monumental achievement for Ibn AlBahr. It underscores our commitment to excellence in seafood and authentic Lebanese cuisine. This accolade reflects our dedication to serving terrific food, especially the Lebanese way.

Furthermore, the recognition has not only elevated our brand’s prestige but also reinforced our position as a leading destination in Dubai. It attracts food enthusiasts from around the world who seek out Michelin-recommended restaurants. It motivates us to continuously innovate and uphold high standards.

Across all our new and future locations, including the recently opened Ibn AlBahr in Batroun-Lebanon, we aim to maintain these standards. We are proud of this recent opening, marking our third location for Ibn AlBahr and the first outside the UAE. Looking ahead, we have ambitious expansion plans. Our aim is to bring our celebrated seafood concept to new markets, both regionally and internationally.


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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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