Hospo CheckIn: Hatem Saleh

We checked in with Hatem Saleh, CEO Atlantic Group, who has had his fair share of challenges over the last six months, and keeps getting up and moving forward.

1. From Central Pier, to the bushfires and now Covid-19, if I may say, you’ve had so many challenges put to you and your team in the last six months and you keep going. In a time where all hospitality is under duress, can you share what drives you to continue to move forward?

My passion and love for the hospitality industry continues today more now than ever before.

My incredible team, their dedication and commitment to our brand, continues to drive me. Adding in the cancellation of the Formula One Grand Prix, minutes after the doors were due to open, the past 8 months have been extremely challenging but the [A] team continues to excel and it makes me extremely proud to see what they can achieve even under such duress.

The support of our partners, clients and suppliers is paramount and the support of our peers definitely helps drive us forward. As a business you need to adapt and continue to pivot your business model to stay afloat, we learnt this first hand when Central Pier was closed back in August 2019.

We know that circumstances can change overnight and as a business we needed to adapt in order to continue trading during the pandemic that is COVID-19. The launch of Atlantic Group at Home has allowed that, some of our biggest corporates, closest clients and personal connections have assisted in promoting our offering. They have also been amazing supporters of the new range and have ordered in bulk to feed their families and employees. We can’t thank everyone enough for their support.

2. What do you think will the hospitality industry look like when this has passed?

It may take some time given the economic impact but I am hopeful that when we come out of hibernation the industry will thrive once again.

Australians and particularly, Melburnians, will want to support the hospitality industry and celebrate in the best way we know how and that is with fantastic food, locally produced wine and most importantly, together with family and friends after not seeing them for such a long time.

There is no doubt that many operators in many industries, but particularly hospitality, will not survive through the catastrophic effects of these uncertain times. I cannot express enough, that in order to avoid being a victim of this crisis, the need and ability to be nimble, proactive and to take strategic risks is imperative. Run with your gut feeling, do not be scared to take a chance – it may be the only way to survive.

3. How are you, your family and your team?

All things considered, everyone is trying to stay positive.

The recent announcement by the Federal Government will hopefully assist us in keeping our employees engaged and working, which is incredibly significant not only for our business but most importantly for the individuals that form part of our Atlantic Group family.

This government initiative and the $1.3 billion allocated over the next 6 months to keep staff employed has already allowed us to consider re-rostering our full time people that would have otherwise been stood down. This allows them to be active in the workforce from our kitchen or their homes and continues to keep them engaged. I applaud the Prime Minister, Treasurer and Premier of Victoria for making this very important decision to assist our industry. We are looking forward to communicating the way forward with our people.

The family and I are spending more time together, which is great. Hospitality hours make it difficult to be home a lot so it’s a great opportunity for the family and I to reconnect and spend some quality time together.

Finally, to my fellow hospitality colleagues do not stop under any circumstances, you must keep going!

 

Interview: April 9