With Dubai’s nightlife scene back in full swing, FACT catches up with the man behind Seven Sisters Dubai and The Theater Dubai to discuss new openings, Dubai’s nightlife scene and the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry.
Could you please tell us about 7 Management and why it’s seen as one of Beirut and Dubai’s leading restaurant and club operators?
An open space leaves huge room potential, and it takes a vision to bring this potential to life. And within this vision you manage to connect with people through experiences. After all, the modern customer is an experience seeker, out looking for the next thrill despite the constant search for all things familiar in a different setting. This is 7 Management’s secret to success, starting from Beirut to creating over ten brands and more within our upcoming expansion plans. We try our best to understand the customer and give them what they are looking for, but in a new way and with a twist. The experience is always the ultimate goal, and this is a testament to the extreme diversity of our portfolio, directly addressing all market gaps, setting trends and becoming beloved favourites. This positioned us as the leading nightlife operator in Beirut with successful expansions to the UAE through Seven Sisters in 2018 and Antika in 2019 and the further massive expansion of Beirut’s iconic B018.DXB, February 30, Kahwet Beirut and the upcoming launch of The Theater, Lucia’s and Le Rosé, to name a few.
As Founder and CEO of Seven Management, could you tell us about your day-to-day role and what keeps it challenging and exciting?
Our industry is very challenging, and as CEO my day-to-day observations and communication allow me to stay on top of things as our business constantly goes through upgrades and development. My work is essentially a vital part of my lifestyle, where even my travels are a significant source of inspiration for what I do. I don’t have working hours as I work 24/7, from the initial inception of my organisation from Beirut as a local company, then a regional player in the UAE and Qatar, and very soon KSA and Egypt.
I am closely involved with the operations team, which is key, followed by the Finance team where we constantly crunch numbers and marketing. I closely overlook the marketing and enjoy being involved because I believe that marketing is an essential component of our success. We try to always understand and lead, as we are present in different markets. I have multiple Zoom meetings per week overlooking operations, franchises and so on, since our business combines a bit of everything, from service and hospitality, as well as location and real estate in addition to entertainment and music. The same applies to the food and kitchen, continuously innovating and working with flavours and presentation since our work touches all five senses.
7 Management offers everything from visualisation to the creation of brands. Which of these elements is your favourite to work on?
Every step throughout the process of creating a brand is exciting and has its own speciality. Still, for me, the most exciting part is the visualisation, where the brand isn’t there, but we are in the creation phase of bringing something to life and trying to come up with the right formula for all the successful elements. Having that is not easy but there’s no real fun without some challenge, right? This is the stage where we secure that the brand can be sustained in the market after careful study, then positioned in the right way, from location to branding, and finally where the brand ticks all boxes from food to service, beverage, ambience, lighting and music. Everything should reflect the brand essence. This is why the visualisation and the first stage is the most exciting part for me. Once things are on the table and put on paper, it becomes easier moving forward.
We know you’re currently working on several new openings in Dubai. What should we be excited about in the coming months?
We have so many exciting projects on the way, but unfortunately due to COVID-19 and the applied restrictions, we had to delay the launch of our brands for our initial planned opening dates, which is why we have multiple openings happening simultaneously. From The Theater being launched in the next few days, which is a crucial milestone for our group because it is one of the biggest brands we are launching in Dubai. With Dubai being an international F&B and entertainment hub, the competition is quite high. We should meet all standards when positioning ourselves in such an upscale segment of fine dining and entertainment.
We follow with February 30, our successful homegrown baby brand from Beirut which has continued to evolve and upgrade throughout the years until it reached the position of being launched as a beach bar lounge and restaurant on Palm West beach on the Palm Jumeirah, and should be ready by September. It promises to be something else in terms of brand, location, food and the experience as a whole. Feb30 presents something special that the Dubai crowd will understand and enjoy.
Our homegrown Kahwet Beirut, a very well-known café in Lebanon, is due to launch at the heart of Downtown Dubai at Al Murooj Complex with a terrace complete with a stunning oasis garden, quite rare to find. It is finished with vibes of the golden days of Beirut, honoured by the authentic flavours of Lebanon’s favourite dishes.
Beirut’s legendary nightclub B018.DXB is also opening soon in Dubai, alongside Lucia’s, a beautiful authentic Italian restaurant and Le Rosé, a stunning and elegant French restaurant.
The Theater is expected to open this week. What can you tell us about the venue and how it differs from other ‘dinner and a show’ concepts in Dubai?
The Theater is the ultimate amalgamation of all senses, a complete live masterpiece in motion that will change the face of nightlife across the Middle East. It is much more than just a “dinner and a show”. It is a pairing of fine dining across beautifully created international cuisine, coupled with live art shows of musical acts and extravagant dance. The creativity and vision of Lebanese-Armenian musician, composer and pianist Guy Manoukian is unlike any other in the region. The promise of incomparable experiences and dynamic shows will leave everyone at the edge of their seats. From the exciting and compelling moves of our Las Vegas aerialist to the 80’s songs that hit all those nostalgic spots, or the cheer that accompanies your modern favourites being sung, The Theater is here to stir and remain.
February 30 will be making its debut at West Palm Beach soon. What can guests expect from the new beachfront venue and why did you pick Palm Jumeirah as the location?
Palm Jumeirah’s timelessness houses February 30, the “date that never was.” Where time has no place on this beachfront plane, evidenced in the evergreen restaurant interior. The twists of unusual cocktails and details stir the imagination and capture the senses, perfectly complementing the outdoor lounge. This is the spot for people to experience something different and edgy while complimented with a beautiful beach setting on Palm West Beach. Palm Jumeirah is still one of the hottest F&B destinations in Dubai, especially on Palm West Beach, a beautiful strip housing several successful brands, and fast becoming one of the hippest places to visit in Dubai due to its perfect positioning and careful selection of brands. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Nakheel as a group and specifically Mr. Omar Khoory, Chief Assets and Hospitality Officer at Nakheel, for his vision and passion intro transforming Palm West beach into what is it today. Our brand fits perfectly on this beautiful strip.
We’re very excited about the arrival of B018.DXB at Media One Hotel. How closely will the nightlife venue reflect the original concept in Beirut?
Throughout the decades, one location has demanded you to leave your inhibitions at the door and surrender your body to beats that stir the blood as you lose yourself in the music. From 1998, Beirut’s highly infamous “bunker” has been calling out to music and party lovers, providing a delicious nightlife scene for the dance thirsty. B018’s infamy has expanded its love to Dubai to Media One Hotel, all the way up on the 42nd floor. Beirut’s iconic nightclub finds a new home in Dubai with the main elements respecting the brand DNA of its highly coveted underground music, art and culture scene. You cannot replicate an original and the main Beirut B018 will forever remain iconic, in terms of location, history, space and environment. Still, we pay homage to its legend here in Dubai. The club will follow some signature and much-loved nights themed from Lebanon but will also have a new identity in each country to properly connect with its clientele moving forward. This is how we see the dynamic DNA of B018 as we further expand the brand globally.
We’ve heard rumours that an Italian concept Lucia’s, will be taking up residence in the Address Sky View. What can you share with us about this sky-high dining concept?
There is an ongoing trend of merging live entertainment with food, but on a more elevated level, and this is what Lucia’s will represent. Lucia’s will be your favourite Italian restaurant when you feel like going on a trip to Italy to relive those good moments or to discover the magic behind the sparkle of the country. This is where Lucia’s staff step in with their energy and interactions as part of the exciting experience where there will be key touchpoints of moments and shows. Lucia’s at the Address Sky View hotel is perfect as it is one of the hottest hotels now in Dubai. With the beautiful space and terrace overlooking the Burj Khalifa, I expect it to be the talk of the town after the upcoming September launch.
Seven Sisters has just undergone a revamp in terms of both decor and menu. What can we expect from the new-look venue and how is it different from its previous guise?
Seven Sisters is very close to my heart. It was the first brand we established in Lebanon after forming 7 Management in 2015, and in 2018 we launched Seven Sisters Dubai. Seven Sisters at the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai has been performing exceptionally well, positioning itself as one the best rooftops in Dubai. Seven Sisters is a solid brand catering to a diverse clientele, from Lebanese to Arabs and Europeans, specifically from the UK and many other nationalities. The creatively themed nights are still ongoing following the brand upgrade, and the venue is stunning with a new look and feel, entertainment direction and menu selection. We’ve upscaled the brand while maintaining our average price point without compromising quality or experience. We are on a constant quest to upgrade the experience we present to customers, and this is a difference between the new and old Seven Sisters. Part of the job involves constant evolving and upgrading.
From the opening of Faces back in 2011 to the forthcoming opening of The Theater, how has Seven Management changed in the last decade, and what have you had to do to adapt to changes in the marketplace?
Yes, it has been a decade. In fact, in the past 11 years, 7 Management has evolved, starting with small bars on Hamra street in Beirut, from Faces, February 30, Big Shot to Checkpoint Charlie. This was followed by entering the mega club’s scene in 2015, starting with Seven Sisters, an immediate success story, becoming the number one lounge and outdoor venue for several years in Beirut and then a successful launch in Dubai in 2018. We have placed more focus on the food element and experience through the years, which we enjoy so much. We have created several brands such as Kahwet Beirut and Super Snack El Kbeer, followed by the most recent launch, Bait, a Greek Mediterranean restaurant, also in the pipeline for the region’s expansion plan. But one thing is for sure, that from Faces to The Theater, I can honestly say that the heart and soul are trying day after day to provide the best of what we can and create enjoyable experiences for all our clients and customers while trying to remain one step ahead of the market.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the hospitality scene in the UAE. Do you think the industry is beginning to bounce back?
Yes, the global scene is beginning to bounce back. Our entertainment scene, which took a big hit, allowed us to become more creative and think outside the box to be operational and cost-effective without severe financial losses. The past two years have been challenging and came with many lessons, and now we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel through the global vaccine rollout. I believe that the bounce back is set to happen, and we can see it already in Dubai, London, the US and Greece. We are seeing how people are reacting and how our industry is booming, but of course, keeping in mind that it will be a case of ‘the survival of the fittest’ because this bounce back will happen for a year or two, but then it depends on the global economic situation, but I believe each brand must be unique with its offering to survive and lead.
What do you believe restaurants and nightlife venues have to do to stay relevant and ensure success during these unprecedented times for the industry?
I mentioned earlier that it’s about the experience. People chase experiences in everything they do and wherever they go. But to remain relevant and seen, we must be highly creative and unique while remaining cost-efficient and standing out to sustain a business. Social distancing and restrictions have impacted sales, and today’s business owner is put to the test. Unfortunately, only the truly strong and remarkable survive.
What would you say sets 7 Management apart from your competitors in the marketplace?
Our tagline is “Making moments memorable”. We strive hard to create memorable and unforgettable experiences across all venues in all markets, whether in Beirut, Dubai or Doha. I can honestly say that everything we offer is unique but with a twist, and each brand has a rich history and story to its name. Everyone in 7 Management is hands-on and supportive while understanding the vision behind our name and the offering of the brands. The whole formula combined is one of the main secrets to our success.
We also hear you are expanding outside of the GCC with openings in KSA, Egypt, Greece and the UK. What can you tell us about these projects?
We are taking Antika and Kahwet Beirut to Riyadh, KSA for a popup event in November, followed by five brands to Egypt, in both Cairo and the North Coast within the next two years. We are also launching February 30 in Athens, which is set to happen in the South of Athens in Q2, 2022, and London, where we should be launching one to two more brands in the upcoming 18 months. February 30 will open in Doha in September 2021 at the Pearl, with Al Fardan Hospitality, in the Marsa Malaz Kempinski, where Antika Doha is located. Seven Sisters is set to find a new third home soon in Doha as well in 2022.
Finally, please could you talk us through the expansion plans for 7 Management in the next five years.
In addition to all the other countries mentioned above, North America is also in our vision. It is beautiful and rich with vibrant cultures and I believe it has great potential for our portfolio. In addition to the scalability that is there and the numbers and opportunities, it would make us global players, whether it is Los Angles, Las Vegas, Miami, Texas, or New York.
We are working on a big project that I cannot disclose at this stage but will involve several bands, including Lebanese and other international brands in Dubai, set to happen in 2022. I can reveal that it will set new standards for entertainment locally and within the region. In the next five years, I see 7 Management expanding into the hotel business, as I personally believe that hotels are the caviar of our industry.
The trend and demand have shifted towards lifestyle-focused offerings and experiences. When we contribute our vast knowledge of uniquely created F&B brands, we have a winning formula in terms of experiences combined with the individuality and character of boutique hotels, making the attributes and outcome nothing less than impressive. In line with this vision, a chain of boutique hotels is also under development in our pipeline, to be launched in three to five years.