COSMOPOLITAN CONCEPTS

Lebanon 2018 | TOURISM & ENTERTAINMENT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Claude Saba, COO & Managing Partner of Addmind, on concept creation, new offerings, and opportunities in Dubai.

Claude Saba
BIOGRAPHY
Claude Saba exhibited entrepreneurial ambitions at a young age. He graduated with a BA business administration degree. He is currently Addmind Group’s Chief Operating Officer, inspiring and managing cutting-edge, largescale consumer experiences. Addmind Group is often credited as having one of the healthiest and happiest corporate cultures, making it the leader in concept creation and F&B management on the Lebanese scene, which has led to a successful expansion into the UAE.

Addmind promotes itself as a trendsetting entertainment company in Lebanon and the Middle East. What has been your strategy to achieve this?

Addmind is a trendsetter for the region because we own and build all our own concepts; we do everything in-house. The company is based on people, and in this industry, companies always need the right flow and operations to succeed. We have our own contracting, architecture, marketing and design, accounting and auditing, and concept development divisions. We learn from our concepts and ideas at all our sites, and we try to lead the way for new trends. We always learn from our mistakes.

Why did you decide to expand from Lebanon to Dubai?

In the GCC, the only open market for our business is the UAE, mainly Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Dubai is a cosmopolitan place, and business people have a great deal of work going on there. It is an open market that is exposed to the world. All the main sectors are struggling in Lebanon under the current situation, and we had to look at another market to diversify our operations. We chose Dubai because it is a place where one can open entertainment facilities such as nightclubs. It is the closest environment to Lebanon in the region.

Have you explored other markets, such as Europe or Africa, for expansion?

We have not as we are still exploring the Middle East. For example, we recently franchised Iris in Bahrain. That opened in 4Q2017, and now we have Iris Bahrain. We have also franchised Iris in Qatar and that project is currently under construction. We are in the process of signing an Oman franchise deal as well.

What entertainment brands are currently part of Addmind's portfolio?

Our portfolio consists of beach clubs and beaches, lounges, restaurant-bars, restaurants, and clubs under a number of brands. Currently, Addmind mostly focuses on opening restaurants. Over the last year, we were more involved in the nightlife and lounge industry, which was our core business from the outset. However, now we are working to create a balance between our restaurant and nightlife offerings. Diversifying is a great way to ensure the company's growth into the future. We opened Matto restaurant in Dubai. In 1Q2018, we will launch our new Lebanese cafe and restaurant, as well as a Japanese restaurant, which is a new concept for us. We are also opening a smaller fusion Japanese bistro without a bar in a new cluster in Beirut called Zero Four.

What areas in Beirut do you see the F&B and hospitality industry moving toward in 2018?

There is no individual area of interest; it is an open market. Lebanese people know what they like and they follow concepts, excellent service, and taste to wherever it is offered. In Lebanon, if one has a great concept and experience, people will come.

How can companies like Addmind continue to attract people to visit Lebanon?

Since we firmly believe in Lebanon, we work to open up new opportunities to invest in Lebanon. We are still opening new concepts; for example, our strategy and budget for 2018 will focus on opening seven new establishments in Lebanon. We have already opened three so far and have four in progress that we want to open by summer 2018.

In addition to expansion, what other specific business objectives do you have for 2018?

Our specific objective is to maintain the success of our existing products and deliver on all the new concepts we will open this year. Our Dubai nightclub, White Dubai, was ranked the 20th Best Club in the World by the renowned DJ Mag and was the only club in the Middle East to make the Top 100 list, coming in higher than clubs in London, New York, Ibiza, and Miami. We also launched two new venues in Dubai in January 2018—Drai's, a beach club and nightclub franchise from Vegas, and Soho Beach, a beach club destination with a pool, cabanas, and jacuzzis. We hold a big concert there every two weeks. The response to these new concepts has been excellent.