Rabih Fakhreddine on how 7Management is taking over the region and soon, the world

Rabih Fakhreddine knows a thing or two about growth.

In the last eight months, the founder and CEO of 7Management has expanded his business to be one of the leading F&B and entertainment companies in the region. After years of success in Lebanon, the brand moved to Dubai and launched Seven Sisters with a bang, followed by Antika Bar. Since then, 7Management has opened one successful venue after the next, including The Theater, February 30, BO18, Café Beirut and, most recently, Lucia’s at Address Sky View.

Caterer Middle East sat down with Fakhreddine at one of his flagship venues, The Theater, to chat about his achievements so far and the global plans he has for 2022 onward.

He said, “I am very proud of the work we have done. We launched six venues in the last eight months and we have four new projects coming up this year in Dubai alone.”

Fakhreddine exclusively told Caterer, that Dubai can expect four more 7Management venues in 2022. He said: “A launch that I am particularly excited about, is a big one coming up in October 2022 on the rooftop of the Meydan Hotel. It will be the number one oriental lounge in the region. It will be massive. A capacity of 600 seats with a mega stage offering live performances. We are going to have a major partnership with the dance theatre group Caracalla, who will add a magic touch to the show.”

“I consider Dubai one of the dining capitals of the world. So there is no other place we would first launch such a project. I believe this new Oriental lounge will be one of 7Management’s top international brands.”
Fakhreddine was a bit more tight-lipped about his fourth upcoming project. “All I can say is that we are launching a very food-focused high-end Lebanese dining concept at Jumeirah Marsa Al Arab Hotel when it opens. This will be launched in collaboration with one of the most well-known and famous Levantine chefs in the region. I believe Jumeirah Marsa Al Arab hotel will be the hottest hotel addition to the city, and we are so lucky to get a location there.”
“It was our first venue that really mixed both great entertainment and good food. Since then, I believe, every one of our venues has achieved it,” a proud Fakhreddine added.
Fakhreddine said he learned a lot from the pandemic. “I discovered that customers are looking for a one-stop-shop. I call it the Netflix effect. They want everything available to them in one go.”

According to Fakhreddine, the live performances will showcase all the different Arab cultures including shows from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and more. “At this stage, we will portray all the colours and the rich culture of the Arab world,” he added. “It is something big that we’ve been working on for a while now. This will be the biggest project that we have launched so far and I am so glad to be launching it in Dubai.

Fakhreddine was also excited to share the announcement of Lucia’s By The Sea, a beach restaurant concept offering top-quality Italian cuisine by the sea. He said: “The success of Lucia’s was unprecedented. It was so well received by diners in Dubai, that we are already expanding the restaurant regionally, while also launching it on the beach on Palm Jumeirah. Another venue set to launch on the Palm is Seray, a fine dining Lebanese restaurant. Both Lucia’s and Seray will open in Q4 of 2022.”

After the success of Fakhreddine’s beachfront spot, February 30, he strongly believes in Palm Jumeirah as an F&B destination. He added: “We’ve studied the market well, and learned that there is no proper Italian restaurant in the area where we’ll open. So we believe that our festive Italian venue will do very well as a beachside concept. Guests can expect a gorgeous view, fantastic ambience, entertainment and most importantly, great quality food.”

Marrying dining and entertainment

Take one look at 7Management’s venues and you’ll see a pattern. A great location, top-quality F&B and phenomenal entertainment. “We started out in the entertainment industry back in Beirut. Whether it was February 30, Antika or Seven Sisters, we operated mainly as an entertainment destination. It is not easy to crack the food side of the business when your focus is entertainment, but I can proudly say that we managed to do that with The Theater.

And so Fakhreddine acted accordingly. “We launched the Theater with this in mind. I am so grateful for my team there. Within eight months, they managed to make it one of the top venues in the city, and just because we are on top, does not mean we will lean back.” He explained that creative director Guy Manoukian and the team will continue to plan more surprise performances, upgrades to the experience and fresh show ideas.

Moving on to February 30, Fakhreddine said its introduction was a big hit. He added. “We are doing more than 1,000 covers a day and our partnership with chef Reif Othman for the menu was so successful. Clients love the food there and they share this feedback with us all the time. To me, he’s one of the best chefs in town.

Lucia’s, 7Management’s latest addition, is the talk of the town, according to Fakhreddine. Located at Address Sky View, Downtown, the Italian venue opened its doors in mid-February and promises Sicilian and Capri-inspired Italian cuisine.

He said: “Chef Enrico Paiola did a great job on the menu. People are telling me that they love the food. I think we managed to launch the first festive Italian venue in Dubai. It has had excellent reviews and it’s fully booked every day. To me, the secret recipe is to truly understand what the customer wants and to try to come up with the concepts and brands that give them the experience that they are looking for.”

Big Expansion plans across Saudi Arabia

At the end of 2021, Fakhreddine entered the Saudi market with Café Beirut at Riyadh Boulevard and an Antika pop-up at the Oasis area, as part of the Riyadh season. He said: “Café Beirut is located on the boulevard in the heart of Riyadh, facing the Riyadh fountain with more than 200 seats both indoor and outdoor. It is a permanent venue, while Antika is currently a pop-up. It has indoor and outdoor seating and live entertainment to go along with great Lebanese food.”

According to Fakhreddine, the two concepts were a runaway success. “Café Beirut has a lot of scalability in Saudi Arabia. I see three more launching in Riyadh, maybe two in Jeddah and one in Khobar in the near future.”

What Fakhreddine loves about Saudi Arabia is that the market so far doesn’t depend on tourists. He said: “It is 95 percent a local market and they are hungry for something new. Especially when it comes from the region.”

He added: “Back in the 1990s it was common to see international imports. They were mostly casual eateries, then, in the early 2000s, came to a shift towards more homegrown outlets. However, back then the focus was mainly on cafés. The café was where people used to hang out. It was a socially acceptable venue to enjoy a night out. Because of that, there weren’t many lifestyle brands and now that more high-end concepts and lifestyle brands are launching in Saudi, we had to be a part of it.”

Fakhreddine was already in negotiations to launch his venues in the Kingdom before the pandemic. He said: “7Management was approached by the General Entertainment Authority in Saudi Arabia so that we can expand our concepts there. And Saudi, as a market, has plenty of room for growth. I find it so unique. Saudi Arabia to me is the name of the game.

“Riyadh is evolving at a very fast pace. It is becoming more open to new ideas, more liberal and a place where a lot of brands want to be seen. Saudi’s F&B market is still so young, it has room for so much. I see it as such a powerful destination, that I am establishing 7Management KSA. Dubai will be the regional office, but we will definitely have a structure in the Kingdom. Over there, they generally love Lebanese concepts, music, and design. So I expect The Theatre, Antika and Seven Sisters to be opened in Saudi by 2025.”

7Management in Qatar, Egypt and more

“I am expanding aggressively in Qatar,” Fakhreddine said. “We are so excited for 2022 there. You have the World Cup and a big tourism boom taking place there soon. We currently have the number one nightlife venue there with Antika at the Kempinski Hotel in Qatar.

“We opened a year ago and partnered with Al Fardan Hospitality. We are also opening Lucia’s and BO18, as well as Seven Sisters. We are also in negotiations for Café Beirut.”
Egypt is also a big focus, with February 30 opening at the North Coast this season and Lucia’s and Cafe Beirut in Cairo due in 2023. Also next year, Lucia’s will open in Greece, 7 Management’s first venture into Europe. Fakhreddine said: “I believe that Athens is a market that has a lot of potential, we will do a lot there across our portfolio. We are also actively looking to have The Theater in London and Las Vegas in the next two to three years.”

There are also plans to launch Antika in Bahrain by the end of 2022.

Looking ahead

Fakhreddine is very proud that his homegrown concepts are getting demand from international hotels, saying that it’s all down to such a successful 2021 and 2022 so far.

He added: “It was a great year, and we’re looking to grow the organisation in 2023. I’m working on the operational side right now, making sure we have the right talent because we have a big and fast expansion coming up.”

With no launches planned for the summer, Fakhreddine will be focusing on the operational side of venues that are already up and running and for 7Management as a whole. He added. “I’m getting ready for our international expansion. We’re also planning to announce our rewards program. As we have a big database across our brands, we will be launching a 7Management loyalty program, which will enable people to visit all of our outlets and benefit from rewards across the region.”

He also believes that Dubai will continue to grow. “The past six months have been great,” he said. “We thought after December 2021, the market would slow down, but our numbers overachieved by 20 to 30 percent. I have a good feeling about the future.”