Get All Access for $5/mo

Setting The Trend: Rabih Fakhreddine, Founder And CEO, 7 Management "Competition does not bother us," Fakhreddine declares. "Our originality and uniqueness guarantee that we remain ahead of the curve."

By Aby Sam Thomas Edited by Aby Sam Thomas

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

7 Management
Rabih Fakhreddine, Founder And CEO, 7 Management

As someone who has launched more than 10 innovative brands across three countries in the Middle East, it seems safe to say that 7 Management founder and CEO Rabih Fakhreddine is someone who simply knows what it takes to make a concept stand out in the region's F&B and entertainment space. Just a cursory look at the 7 Management portfolio would be enough to corroborate this assertionafter all, it's a list that includes crowd-pulling concepts like Antika, Lucia's, The Theater, February 30, Seven Sisters, and more. "Each and every one of our venues has a unique, experiential story behind it," Fakhreddine declares. "We create innovative ideas that are groundbreaking in the market. Identity, meaning, and values given to a venue ensure an engaged and loyal customer. Customers prefer places they can emotionally connect to, places that engage them, stick to their core memories, and have them coming back again and again."

But given that 7 Management operates in an industry rife with players who are known to practically clone successful concepts with the aim to siphon off clientele for their copycat enterprises, is being trailblazing, well, enough to ensure continued success in this landscape? According to Fakhreddine, the answer to that question is an emphatic yes. "Because we set the trend, our brand DNA is never duplicated in other venues," he points out. "When I am told that some business is attempting to be a 'copy-paste' of one of our concepts, I am not bothered. In fact, I feel rewarded that many businesses look up to what we are doing. Competition does not bother us; our originality and uniqueness guarantee that we remain ahead of the curve."

Fakhreddine's sentiment on this particular topic underlines the modus operandi that he has made use of ever since he started working in this industry in Lebanon in 2011. But if we are to pinpoint the moment where Fakhreddine's fascination with this sector began in the first place, we'd need to go back further in time. "My story started in the family kitchen," Fakhreddine reveals. "As a child, I fell in love with cooking, and I spent quite some time playing with pots and pans. As an undergrad at the American University of Beirut, I learnt a lot from joining student clubs and participating in social activities. Meanwhile, I started my journey of investing in bars and restaurants. After graduating in 2006 with a degree in business marketing, I worked in sales, before climbing the managerial ladder for the Levant region at London-headquartered multinational, British American Tobacco. But my infatuation with the hospitality industry never waned. Come 2011, a steppingstone to my entrepreneurial career happened. Faces, my first bar, came to life at Beirut's center of entertainment, the Hamra district." To say that Faces became a hit with the masses seems like an understatement- indeed, it has since been billed as a place where you'd "leave a bit of yourself behind."

Lucia's, located in Dubai. Source: 7 Management

Fakhreddine followed up the success he saw with Faces by launching two new concepts in 2012, both of them in the same Hamra district- Big Shot, which was Beirut's first bar built on a hip-hop and R&B theme, came first, and then came the now-legendary resto-pub, February 30. The Cold War-inspired Checkpoint Charlie was the next of Fakhreddine's venues to open in 2013, and that was succeeded the following year by another resto-pub, Walkman, which was a celebration of the spirit characteristic of the 80's. And while Fakhreddine had been holding on to his job while he opened up all these venues, in 2015, when he launched another new concept -Seven Sisters- in Beirut, he finally quit, and then embarked on a new chapter of his career trajectory by founding 7 Management. Fakhreddine then went on to launch many other concepts in Lebanon- these included Antika, which opened in Dbayeh in 2016, as well as Kahwet Beirut, which opened in the country's capital in 2018- before making inroads into the UAE in 2019 by opening the Dubai branch of Seven Sisters.

As a Lebanese national who has had his country be the launchpad for so many of his success stories, Fakhreddine, like most of his fellow citizens, is understandably upset with the current of his nation. But then again, he, like so many of us, also remains hopeful about Lebanon's future- and that's what he is banking on as an entrepreneur who continues to have interests in the country. "Even though the economic situation is horrible, and there is no proper political horizon to be seen, Lebanon is still a market opportunity the moment the situation changes," Fakhreddine declares. "We have investments in Lebanon that we did not give up on, namely Antika, Seven Sisters, and Sayf, and once the country is out of dangerous waters, we will still be there." Fakhreddine's steadfastness towards Lebanon is heartening, and that, funnily enough, seems to be a result of his own experiences in the country. "Launching a business in Lebanon teaches you perseverance, whatever the circumstances," Fakhreddine says. "In the past few years, Lebanon has witnessed many circumstances that would have discouraged any investor, but we have always emerged from crises, and rebuilt ourselves. So, what I learned is that you should never give up, no matter what the circumstances are. You will have good days, and you will have ugly ones in your field of work, wherever you are."

Related: Off The Beaten Path: Kinoya Founder Neha Mishra On How She Got To Where She Is Today (And Where She's Headed Next)

Rabih Fakhreddine, Founder And CEO, 7 Management. Source: 7 Management

Fortunately for Fakhreddine, he seems to be on the "good days" segment of his and his business' journey right now, and it looks like they will continue for the foreseeable future as well- especially when considering the fact that he's based in the Middle East. "The region's economic outlook is promising, unlike the grim forecasts of many countries and other regions," Fakhreddine points out. "Notably, the GCC is an excellent market for entrepreneurs with a booming hospitality industry. Governments are intentionally supporting the industry and making the region attractive for entertainment, tourism, and leisure. There is an influx of investments in hospitality, including in hotels and F&B outlets. The biggest new opportunity is in Saudi Arabia, a young F&B market that is rapidly opening up to new ideas and brands. The country's Vision 2030 has dedicated a great part of it to the hospitality and tourism industries, and the nation is aiming for 100 million visits per year by 2030. Oman is also looking to diversify its economic revenues, and hospitality will play a big role there as well."

For his part, Fakhreddine has certainly been building his business to be in the strongest position possible to take advantage of all opportunities that come its way in the region. 7 Management today has more than 10 concepts operating across three countries in the region- these include Antika (which is operational in Dubai, Beirut, and Doha), Café Beirut (which is operational in Dubai), Sayf (which is up and running in Beirut), and B018.DXB, Lucia's, The Theater, February 30, Black Flamingo, and Seven Sisters- all of which are located in Dubai.

And the success 7 Management has seen so far in the region bodes well for the global ambitions Fakhreddine has for the company's brands. That's right- Fakhreddine is hoping to take his concepts outside of the Middle East this year. "We will be opening Café Beirut in the UK and the US," Fakhreddine reveals. "Our intention is to make the Café Beirut brand a landmark all over the world. We are also working on a Lucia's branch in Athens. The city is a market that has great potential, and we are aiming at taking various brands there." Fakhreddine's moves with 7 Management's global expansion are particularly interesting to see in a region that seems to have always had a steady stream of international brands making a beeline for it, but the reverse scenario -unfortunately- hasn't been as commonplace. "Only a handful of brands from the region have turned into world-class global names with international operations," Fakhreddine admits.

"It has been mostly a one-way street, with an influx of international brands into the Middle East. Rather than them coming to us, it is time we go to them." According to Fakhreddine, 7 Management's success in Dubai will allow it to start on the right footing in its new locations. "Success in Dubai, where we are in competition with many international players, means we can compete effectively beyond the region," he explains. "The concepts we offer are attractive to a multicultural audience in the region, and we believe they will be equally attractive on the global stage. We hope this venture would encourage more Middle Eastern entrepreneurs to become global players, pushing boundaries, and popularizing homegrown brands around the world."

The Theater. Source: 7 Management

This, by the way, ties into Fakhreddine's personal ambitions for himself and his enterprise. "My goal from the outset has been to expand the audience of my brands," he says. "This has been done through 7 Management's widely diversified portfolio, which includes bars, restaurants, beach clubs, night clubs, and cafés. We will continue adding to our concepts and venues, regionally and globally. We are currently working towards franchising into new cities, as well as opening up new venues in the countries we are already operating in. In Dubai, for instance, we're working on a huge project that includes a club and a rooftop venue to be launched in Q4 2023 at Emirates Towers, with an iconic location facing the Museum of The Future. Our vibrant Italian concept, Limonata, will open in Dubai's Vista Mare. Abu Dhabi will soon have its own Antika and Lucia's, and other brands are to follow as well. We are also entering the Saudi market with Antika, Lucia's, and Cafe Beirut. In Qatar, Antika is already open, and Café Beirut, Lucia's, and February 30 are set to launch very soon. Meanwhile, Bahrain will see Antika in Manama."

At this point, it feels like Fakhreddine's own long-term game plan is tied to his enterprise- and the entrepreneur is only too happy to confirm that with his next statement. "The endgame is to keep designing brands and launching venues that put smiles on peoples' faces, and create happiness-filled moments," Fakhreddine declares. "This is what drives me, and what I aim for every day I wake up and head to work."

'Trep Talk: Rabih Fakhreddine shares his top tips for entrepreneurs in the hospitality realm

1/ Understand the needs of your market "Customers are at the heart of the hospitality business- everything we do, why we do it, and how it is done. Then comes understanding the competition, which is not merely monitoring what they are doing, but rather grasping their approach and execution. This allows you to plan well, and paves the way for your brand to shine."

2/ Build a brand that has a story to tell "Creating a story behind your brand with a well-formed identity lets it resonate with your audience, and builds an emotional connection. Such a connection will boost your business."

3/ Treat your team well, and they will take care of your business "It goes without saying that one needs to invest in a solid team. From operational managers, to waiters and bartenders, to marketing, and beyond, every member is a building block of your dream team, and you are only as good as your team."

4/ The role of great marketing and an excellent PR strategy is no joke "There is no point in having a great brand if nobody hears about it. Pour energy into a good communications plan that tells your story, and think of all methods, including traditional PR and social media campaigns."

5/ You have to be your biggest cheerleader "Remember to wake up every day believing in your idea, and to go grab life by the horns."

Related: Making A Mark: Happy Skin Co-Founder Rissa Mananquil Trillo On What Drives Her Unwavering Spirit As An Entrepreneur

Aby Sam Thomas

Entrepreneur Staff

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.

Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.  

Fundraising

You Don't Need Venture Capital Anymore — Here Are 4 Funding Alternatives

Are you hoping to raise capital for your business without traditional investor interference? Here are four alternatives you could pursue.

Fundraising

15 Body Language Secrets of Successful People

Your body language has likely become an integral part of who you are, to the point where you might not even think about it.

Making a Change

8 Mental Disciplines More Powerful Than Self-Doubt

Our actions alone have the power to change our beliefs.

Leadership

NLP: What It Is and How Female Entrepreneurs Can Use It to Erase Self-Doubt and Other Obstacles

It's called neuro-linguistic programming and it can help you 'reframe' the mental barriers that keep you down.

Business News

How to Start Your Dream Business This Weekend, According to a Tech CEO Worth $36 Million

He started his now 14-year-old company in one weekend for $60 — it made $300,000 the first year, and $3 million the second.