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Lebanon 2019 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

Chili's started in Dallas but has made its presence global, attracting generations of customers in Lebanon.

Hadi el Khoury
BIOGRAPHY
Hadi el Khoury has been part of the Chili’s family for over 16 years. He initially joined Chili’s Beirut after graduating in Business Management Information System from the American University of Science and Technology in 2003. He moved rapidly through the ranks, starting as a waiter, then trainer, manager, franchise training officer, and finally appointed as General Manager. As part of Chili’s global, he attended numerous specialized training in the US and abroad.

What have been the main highlights for the brand? How is the company going to celebrate its 20th anniversary?

The fact that we are celebrating our 20th year in Lebanon is probably our most meaningful highlight. Restaurant life cycles are becoming shorter than ever, as consumers are more demanding and have more options to choose from. We believe that it is a strong recognition of quality of product and service for Chili's to have been serving guests for two decades now. The most rewarding highlight is to see passionate guests who used to come as kids 15 or 20 years ago visit Chili's regularly with their own kids. We feel that we have grown together with our guests and this builds an invaluable bond between them and the brand. We serve over 100,000 meals per year, and the majority of those are regular guests. As for our 20 years celebration, we are currently preparing several marketing activities that will be launched after the summer, and we intend to place the guest at the heart of this initiative.

Can you guide through the brand's history and global expansion strategy?

The Chili's brand started in 1975 in Dallas, as a casual diner boasting a fun and laid-back atmosphere, serving mainly hamburgers and ribs. The success was immediate, and the philosophy that drives the brand remains the same today. Chili's counts more than 1,500 locations worldwide, with more than 100 in the Middle East. The expansion strategy starts by identifying the right partners in every market, in order to replicate the model while continuously adapting to the specifics of the local market.

What are the strong points of your offering?

Consistency has been our top priority from day one, as we believe it is the key to success in the hospitality sector. We have never compromised on the quality of our products and service and strive to provide the very best dining experience to our guests. We have also always focused on innovation, which is a game changer in building loyalty throughout the years. While we have never shifted our focus from our core categories (fajitas, burgers, ribs, and margaritas), it is important to understand the evolution in market needs and consumer expectations. Guests need to regularly experience culinary innovation, and we do this through our quarterly limited time offers (LTOs), that allow us to test new ideas, new recipes, and new ways of presenting some products. Finally, we believe that our team members are also a key part of our offering. It is worth noting that most of the team members have been with us for more than 10 years, with several team members being around since the opening. We firmly believe in employee training, retention, and evolution.

What impact has economic hardship had on the restaurant sector in Lebanon? How has Chili's adapted its strategy to face these challenges?

There is no doubt that Lebanon has been facing a severe economic crisis for several years now, which has significantly impacted purchasing power. People tend to go out less than they did before, and disposable income has undeniably decreased. This means that consumers are looking for the best value for money in everything they purchase. The result is a constant pressure on prices, while costs are still on the rise, and I think this contradiction has forced some restaurants to compromise on the quality of their offering.