In Conversation with… Issam Gebrael

General Manager, Antika, Doha, on the highlights of his hospitality career.

What first attracted you to the hospitality business and what significant changes have you seen over the last few years?
My initial attraction to the hospitality business was simply the people. In this occupation, you’re regularly exposed to a wide range of nationalities whether it be customers or colleagues, so, the environment is very stimulating for making connections and socialising. In the GCC especially, you have the opportunity to meet all kinds of people with different backgrounds and ideologies, all uniting in one place for the same purpose. Each day is filled with its own challenges and requests and this keeps your job alive and interesting.
Hospitality, for me, is a lifestyle and not just a job I attend to, and that’s mainly why it’s enjoyable and continuously pleasing. The most significant change I’ve encountered in recent years is undoubtedly the downfall of the hospitality business due to the pandemic. However, as a learning experience, I’ve truly understood the impact small elements can make in keeping the hospitality industry afloat in unforeseeable circumstances like this.

When did you take over the GM role at Antika, Doha, and how does it differ from your previous position with 7 Management?
I moved to Qatar in December 2020 with the intention of opening the third branch in the region and taking on the role of General Manager, after immense success in Lebanon and Dubai. Previously, I worked as a Beverage Manager for 7 Management, one of the leading F&B companies in the market and, after an outstanding journey, I felt it was time to utilise my expertise and divert it to something new.
Both roles are different yet alike in many ways and have their own scope of work. I do credit my previous position in allowing me to fully fathom the business and be able to apply my knowledge successfully in the current position, in things such as menu creation, cost control, and bar management. I believe the success of a general manager relies heavily on their ability to lead and connect all departments together for a better outcome, from the very back of the office to front of house.

What makes Antika different. How does it stand out from an impressive dining/nightlife offering in Doha?
Antika stands out as a whole package, in the sense that it’s not merely a restaurant or a club but rather an exciting hybrid of both. Guests can come and experience exceptional dining from the Levantine menu, which is truly designed to cater to all palates, along with sensational live entertainment. The indoor and outdoor lounges also both offer different experiences, with the indoor one catering to those who love Arabic-focused music and the outdoor for those who want to relax, enjoy panoramic views of The Pearl and listen to upbeat lounge music with Oriental touches.

What are the biggest joys and the greatest challenges of your job?
As a GM, your job is predominantly about people and therefore, you need to be a people person, to me, my biggest fulfilment is simply seeing our guests happy and satisfied with the standard of services we are providing. To see some guests become regulars and newcomers enthusiastic about returning, gives us great pride and encouragement. We often see some regulars coming multiple times a week to enjoy the different experiences we create at Antika, both indoor and outdoor, so, in the fullness of time, the place has become a home for our guests and for myself and the incredible team at Antika.

Do you have a hobby or secret talent that you like to pursue when you’re not working?
Hobbies give us immense pleasure; they make our lives happy and more interesting. As people say, all work and no play can make our life dull. There should be a combination of work, sport and reading to make my life happier. ✤