Exploring new horizons with restaurateur Mario Haddad Jr.

Exploring new horizons with restaurateur Mario Haddad Jr.

restaurateur Mario Haddad Jr.

Raised in an environment of film lovers and those passionate about food, Mario Jr. Haddad has combined his expertise in the cinema industry with culinary art and storytelling. Besides managing the film distribution activities of Empire, he also oversees successful F&B concepts, namely Sushi Bar, Mario e Mario, Mariolino and Al Falamanki in Lebanon, as well as successful projects overseas. Here, he tells us about his latest endeavors and the key to success.

Your journey in the F&B industry began with Le Sushi Bar in 1997. What inspired you to venture into the restaurant business?

I grew up in a home where food was important. From an early age, I watched my father cook Italian dishes. As a child, I developed a love for everything related to food. At the tender age of 25, I decided to enter the restaurant business. My first venture was Le Sushi Bar. Back then, there weren’t many sushi restaurants in town. Having grown up in London, I was exposed to this cuisine early on.

Your restaurants are known for offering unique guest experiences. How do you infuse storytelling to create memorable dining experiences?

I’m glad you noticed that my restaurants offer a unique guest experience. For me, it’s all about the experience. Food, on its own, means much less if it’s not blended with a story. It’s about creating a feeling, a memory. That’s what makes going out such a great experience. In my years as a restaurateur, I’ve always strived to create something memorable and I aim to offer something different. Furthermore, I was never really interested in the restaurant business as just a business; it’s a passion for me. I always wanted to offer something innovative. Besides, I was born into a family in the movie business, so I guess storytelling is in my blood.

Throughout your career, you’ve demonstrated a talent for identifying and capitalizing on emerging culinary trends. Are there any new ones you are tapping into?

As I said earlier, it was never really about the business. My passion for food and the culinary arts drove me to identify trends. I always wanted to offer something new; bringing innovation to the table kept me engaged. Recently, however, I’ve shifted focus to prioritize the overall dining experience rather than just culinary trends. Mariolino in Bodrum, known as Mariolino by the Sea, exemplifies this shift. It offers soulful Mediterranean cuisine. Yet, it’s more than just the food; it’s about the setting, the sea, the music and the entertainment, which come together to create a unique dining experience.

After the success of your concepts in Lebanon, what other destinations are you setting your sights on? 

I currently operate in five countries: Lebanon, Egypt, UAE, Qatar and now Turkey. The aim is to expand to more continents. However, I operate in a very unusual manner. I tend to rely on fate, in the sense that projects come to me rather than me seeking them. Despite this, I must be open to growth and attract them somehow. I am still hungry for more. However, I am more focused on the growth of the existing brands rather than the creation of new ones. Next for me is growing Mario e Mario. I can see it thriving in a place like Dubai, which lacks restaurants with soul. DON, the successful Asian Street Food eatery with four branches in Cairo, also deserves to be developed further.

Do you have any exciting news to share with our readers?

I am currently undergoing a merger with another local F&B group, the Odin group. Specifically, I’ve identified synergies on many levels, and the combination of our strengths will help us grow exponentially. Therefore, expect fireworks on that front!



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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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