6 knights of hospitality

6 knights of hospitality

If you thought the nightlife scene in the Middle East had died down in the post-pandemic era, think again. The industry is abuzz with innovative and ambitious concepts, so who better to guide us through the dark than the brilliant entrepreneurs behind them?

Top five tips for entrepreneurs
• Work with passion, always.
• Create a story. This depends on how you want your guests to feel once they walk through your doors and goes hand in hand with the concept of the venue.
• Listen to your customers and do your research. You need to know where the gap is and fill it.
• There is always room to do better, but be humble and don’t rush. You need to deliver, ace it and then move forward.
• Be a risk taker. Not taking a risk is the biggest risk of all. A true entrepreneur knows what’s at stake and can see the reward.

Challenges help us learn
The hospitality industry continues to navigate challenges on a daily basis. There’s been a huge increase in competition recently, and the market is expanding constantly. This provides room for every business to improve its quality and service. We view competition as a window of opportunity. We tackle each challenge head on — no matter how big or how small — and ensure we learn something from it.

Egypt on the up
We had a successful summer with our two most recent summer projects in Almaza Bay, Egypt. In June 2022, we opened Megumi, a Japanese-inspired cocktail bar. Later, in August, we opened Sachi Almaza. It’s a beach restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu features a summery twist.

As for the future, we are launching a new hotel division. We are still at the very beginning, but we are really excited about it.

Names of venues owned and managed
• SACHI BY THE SEA (2016 – 2021)

How to make it in nightlife
• First and foremost, entrepreneurs must be able to understand the needs of the customer; they are at the core of what we do and why we do it.
• Understanding the competition is crucial. It isn’t a case of “keeping an eye” on what they’re up to but understanding their approach to make sure your brand stands out.
• Creating a story gives your venue an identity, meaning and values. Consumers are smart and want to tap into a narrative that resonates with them, so an emotional connection will greatly elevate your business.
• Success requires a group effort. Put together a dream team of operational managers, waiters, bartenders and marketing professionals to push your business forward. This may sound cliché, but you’re only as good as your team. Invest in good people, treat them well, and they will look after your business.
• Create a solid marketing and PR strategy. What’s the point in having a great brand if no one knows about it? Invest in a communications plan that tells your story; there are many ways to get your name out there, from traditional PR to social media campaigns.

Crypto currency
The world is changing before our eyes. It’s a very exciting time to be a nightlife entrepreneur, and it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse. You can’t be afraid of change; see it as an opportunity to do great things.
Crypto is a great example that has boomed in recent years. Instead of ignoring it, we decided to embrace it. Today, you can pay with crypto at any of 7 Management’s venues. It’s about early adoption and being part of the future, not just a bystander. Taking action like this has contributed to me being awarded and honored with titles such as the Best Nightlife Entrepreneur of 2022, as well as inclusion in the Middle East F&B Power 50 List.

Competition is not the be-all and end-all
When you create a truly unique brand then you don’t “worry” about the competition. The story that your venue tells will keep customers coming back; this brand DNA cannot be replicated elsewhere. Creativity and originality ensure we stay ahead. We have created unique and unparalleled concepts to provide our clients with memorable experiences, a stellar F&B offering and great service.
The team should always remain at the core of the business, so it’s important to hire the right people from the get-go. In our industry, you need to employ people who are genuinely passionate about connecting with customers. This will ensure high levels of staff retention.

Upcoming projects
We are looking forward to opening more venues in Q4 2022, including an eclectic bar and lounge called Black Flamingo in the Radisson Hotel on The Palm; a vibrant Italian concept called Limonata, located on Vista Mare; and Café Beirut By The Sea at the Fairmont, The Palm. We will also be creating an incredible World Cup experience in Jumeirah Emirates Towers. Furthermore, we will be bringing two brands to Dubai from Lebanon, expanding the existing brands Café Beirut, Lucia’s and Antika to KSA in 2023, launching Lucia’s in Doha in Q4 2022 and taking Antika to Bahrain in Q3 2023.

Names of venues owned and managed
• B018.DXB

Qualities of entrepreneurs
In this competitive industry, developing a unique and distinctive brand is key. Mastering the entire client experience is the main factor in creating the ultimate brand; it requires continuous effort and attention to detail.
In my opinion, an entrepreneur needs to possess the following to succeed in the industry:
• To have in-depth knowledge of and sound experience in the F&B sector, exercise a hands-on approach to operations and perfect the details.
• To be innovative, be a trendsetter and create a unique concept that has a solid identity and a long-term vision.
• To have a clear brand positioning and set the target audience to fill the right gap in the market
• To have the right people, build a solid team and delegate effectively
• To provide best-in-class experiences and a state-of-the-art customer service that leaves a lasting impression on guests throughout the lifetime of the project; (hospitality lies in the details).

Innovate, innovate and innovate some more
The concept must be solid and consistent to stand a chance of success. However, as the market is very competitive and trends are evolving continuously in this industry, one should always remain innovative and introduce something new to the market.

Challenges are part of the journey Being consistent and having a clear positioning are key factors. The quality of the entire experience is important to remaining competitive in the marketplace. By having the right menu-engineering mindset, ensuring different price corridors and managing to reduce other costs to offset F&B cost increases, you can be price competitive.
Our employees are our most valuable assets, so we make sure to recruit the right people and retain them; they grow with us. We believe in supporting our staff members and personalizing their career development plans to meet their ambitions. Usually, a newcomer undergoes intensive three-week training; but, most importantly, we continuously have madeto- measure training programs. Investing in our human resources is something we take very seriously.

Qatar in the spotlight
We are partnering with and managing a nightclub at Intercontinental Hotel Doha, Qatar, called HIDE. It is set to open in November ahead of the FIFA World Cup and will host international DJs and artists, such as Solomun, Peggy Gou, Marco Carolla and Amr Diab, among others.

Names of venues owned and managed

Key to success
A winning concept has several features, including: a solid identity, a prime location for good exposure, a flexible model to adapt and face the current economic situation, reliable front- and back-of-house systems, consistency and diversification in public relations and CRM.

Invest in your people
Facing daily challenges goes with the territory. We are constantly looking for ways to cut costs yet maintain the same quality, finding alternative solutions for high utilities prices and limiting staff turnover while building long term relationships with key personnel, with ongoing training programs and evaluations.

Dubai on the horizon
We are on track to open our first branch of Esco-Bar on West Palm Dubai by the end of October 2022.

Names of venues owned and managed

Storytelling is fundamental
You have to be perfect at everything, from offering exceptional food and drinks to creating standout venues that are bursting with creativity and theatrics. You either make it or you fail — there is no grey zone. The pace is fast, and the consumer is fickle. Venues have their 15 minutes of fame and then die out. It’s our job to make sure this doesn’t happen by developing modern yet timeless destinations that captivate our guests. I think survival is the essence of creativity.
It’s important to invest in and retain the best talent. Social media is our way of connecting with guests and engaging with our communities of hyper-connected world travelers.
It’s all about creative content and storytelling. All of our venues have a strong social and digital presence, which we use to tell our brand’s stories. The experience transcends our guests’ visits. We keep the conversation going, and we do it creatively. Our social strategy is a reflection of each brand’s unique identity.

Adapt but do things your way
You need to have your finger on the pulse and know your customers. You have to be quick and ready to predict what’s coming next. Being among the key players in Dubai’s hospitality industry, our venues are at the forefront of innovation. In order to keep the competition on their toes, you have to continuously up your game to stay ahead of the curve.
Addmind is successful because we meet the needs of our clients, and we adapt according to the market. Striving to go above and beyond to “wow” our guests, in turn, prompts our competitors to innovate and vice versa, which creates a healthy, forward-thinking and thriving industry.
Addmind is an “experience company,” in that we create memorable experiences — not just venues. Our clientele is international, and many of our brands have crossed borders, which puts Dubai on the map in terms of creating and cultivating world-class F&B and nightlife brands.
Over the past decade, Addmind has established some of Dubai’s most dynamic restaurants, lounges and clubs, including Iris, White, Clap and Sucre, to name a few. This is quite a feat in a city where the pace is fast, the consumer is unpredictable and venues come and go. Indeed, to have created brands that continue to thrive in difficult and highly competitive markets is one of our greatest achievements.

Future plans
After successfully launching the legendary Raspoutine in DIFC, we are opening two more eateries in Dubai this year: Babylon, an entirely new dinner and party concept, and Dani Garcia’s Leña restaurant, which is set to open on Palm Jumeirah. Elsewhere, we have Mostrador in the pipeline, which is a new venue in East London, and we are opening up new concepts in Saudi Arabia.

Names of venues owned and managed

Offer something unique
The standards of operations, service, marketing and finance are well known, but there is one thing I recommend: be different; copying is short lived.

Trends are irrelevant
The most impactful and successful projects are the ones that do not follow trends.

Company health derives from a solid team
There will always be competition; you just need to find your place and continuously readapt and innovate to remain different and relevant. With the current crisis, we need to accept that we have around seven extremely slow months every year where we have to be overcautious about our costs and bring to life activations that will keep the team motivated. We use this period for team building and training.

To counter the brain-drain effect of the crisis, we had to double our efforts to maintain a healthy company culture and create a safe environment for the team while increasing salaries. It is becoming tougher for the youth to survive in Lebanon, so it needs to be worth it.
All of the above means that our revenues are decreasing. However, this is not the time to make substantial profits; it’s the time to maintain equity and a positive team to build for the future.

Beirut, Dubai and beyond
We will start the repairs and reconstruction of The Grand Factory in Beirut, hoping to open before end of 2022. Furthermore, a Soul Kitchen is slated for Dubai, which is a much larger, upgraded version of Soul Kitchen Terrace in Beirut, with a full-fledged restaurant, spacious terrace, central bar area and a Club Room. These projects are followed by a Mediterranean bar and restaurant in 2023 at 25Hours Hotel Dubai, inspired by our Habibi Club nights. In parallel, there will be an ongoing series of events in Beirut, Dubai, including Monkey Bar and 25Hours Hotel, and in Egypt, where we are running the biggest club in the region — AHM Sahel (North Coast) — with our partner Venture Lifestyle Group.

Names of venues owned and managed
• THE BASEMENT (2005 – 2011)
• ANYA (2017 – 2019)




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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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