Interview: From Beirut to the world
7 Management CEO Rabih Fakhreddine talks to Hotelier Middle East about his leadership style, his keys to success and ambitious expansion plans
Rabih Fakhreddine caught the hospitality bug at a young age. He says: “I was fascinated with kitchen tools and cooking. This made me plan to study hotel management abroad in Switzerland, but eventually I decided to stay in Beirut and major in Business Marketing at AUB. My passion for cooking didn't fade away, so I started organizing events and parties at AUB. After I graduated, I joined the British American Tobacco as a Horeca manager which allowed me to grow my network in the industry until I opened my own bar in 2011 [Faces] in Hamra, and my journey in the F&B industry started from there on.”
Currently the CEO of 7 Management he describes his leadership style saying: “I believe in teamwork and in delegation, especially for a growing company like 7 Management with its big expansion plan. We put a lot of trust in our team in order for the organisation to grow across countries and markets. We monitor where the gap is in the market, we try to come up with unique ideas to cater to those needs and always aim to be one step ahead of competition while providing unique experiences. That is what made us stand out and got us to where we are today.”
The company’s growth has been slow but steady, with lots of success stories and moves across different hospitality sectors to recount over the past year. Fakhreddine explains: “In the early phases, we focused on bars and opened several conceptual ones starting off with: Faces, Big Shot, February 30, Checkpoint Charlie & Walkman. We then moved onto mega venues and brands where we launched Seven Sisters Beirut and Antika Bar. Then we moved onto the food segment where we launched Kahwet Beirut, Super Snack El Kbeer and our recent concept, Bait.
“We have come a long way despite all the obstacles and bumpy rides. Recapping 2019, it was an amazing year for us where we established six brands in Beirut and two brands in Dubai (Seven Sisters and Antika Bar). We also revamped February 30 into a mega club and signed off Kahwet Beirut.”
Speaking about why he believes the company has been successful, Fakhreddine highlights several factors: “First and foremost, being a young and insightful team, given the fact that I'm 35 years old, managing this team and organisation. Second, I would say our proactivity in identifying the gaps in the market and coming up with unique concepts that tackle needs across different segments and markets. Third, being competitive; I believe that we are aggressive when it comes to launches. We introduce an average of three brands or outlets per year. We have also managed to build good relationships with stakeholders and suppliers which helped us to position 7 Management as one of the leading F&B operators in the Middle East. I am a people person so I interact with stakeholders and constantly apply new learnings from our experiences while trying to enhance our products and brands.”
Speaking about market performance, Fakhreddine says that, despite highs and lows in recent years, Beirut has been and will always be the showcase for hospitality markets in the region. Taking a wider view of the region, he says: “The hospitality industry is booming. Dubai has played a huge role for the past years as the hub of F&B brands on an international and regional level. That is why we are strategically well positioned with two of our leading brands, Seven Sisters and Antika Bar, alongside the upcoming expansion plan that is within the pipeline.
“KSA has boomed into a key player in the industry as of last year. It is evident that the vision of the Saudi authorities in the entertainment segment is to make the country a hub for this industry and plan for a lot of events in the coming year. Egypt has also recently entered as major player in the region, having gone through post-crisis recovery. We have seen a lot of brands penetrating the Egyptian market specifically in Cairo and the north coast.”
Looking forward to this year, Fakhreddine reveals that there are several projects in the pipeline for 7 Management. The company is bringing Beirut nightlife institution B018 to Dubai and has signed a strategic partnership with Food Quest for Kahwet Beirut and Super Snack El Kbeer. Four branches for each brand will open in Dubai and Abu Dhabi over the next three years. In addition, a franchise agreement with Fairmont Hotel, Abu Dhabi will see Antika Bar open in the UAE capital. There will also be a move into KSA and Egypt with the establishment of two of 7 Management’s key brands — Antika Bar and Kahwet Beirut in Riyadh, Jeddah, Cairo and the north coast.
There are also plans to take the brand beyond the region. Fakhreddine says: “On an international level, we are initiating 7 Management Greece where we are aiming to launch Seven Sisters and February 30 in Athens and eventually in Mykonos. Aside from that, we recently launched Antika Night at the Maddox club in London where we will do a series of Antika Night events every month until we launch Antika Bar in London by Q1 2021.”
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