Flavio Briatore: Managing Teams in Racing and Restaurants Follows the Same Blueprint

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Flavio Briatore: Managing Teams in Racing and Restaurants Follows the Same Blueprint
©  Reuters

The strength of a leader’s vision should surpass the hurdles it encounters, and for someone like Flavio Briatore, this is typically a non-issue. The ex-F1 chief and creator of Billionaire Dubai emphasizes to CEO Middle East that although dance floors may be currently inaccessible, his entertainment concept exemplifies the resilience of effective adaptation during challenging times.

The past year and a half has posed a severe test of resilience, even for the most seasoned leaders. Lockdowns, social distancing, and plummeting economies have left little room for optimism. It has undeniably been a challenging period for many. Nevertheless, the lessons learned during this time have been profound, with even industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic finding ways to adapt and rebound. Among those significantly impacted were the entertainment and restaurant sectors, which bore the brunt of stringent restrictions. However, they are now on the path to recovery.

Flavio Briatore, a maverick entrepreneur renowned for his unconventional approach to virtually any endeavor, stands out in this context. Throughout his career, he has navigated both success and controversy, and even at the age of 71, his passion for crafting innovative entertainment and lifestyle concepts remains undiminished.

Flavio Briatore’s Midas touch is legendary. As the commercial head of Formula One’s Benetton team, he not only discovered but also nurtured and propelled Michael Schumacher to unprecedented heights in his career, transforming the team into a dominant force. Under his guidance, the Benetton team became the benchmark in the early and mid-1990s, and Briatore himself became a globally recognized celebrity, known for his distinctive personal style and flair.

The genesis of the Billionaire concept can be traced back to 1998 when Briatore observed a glaring gap in the market. Nightclubs offered great entertainment and music but lacked quality food, while restaurants excelled in cuisine but lacked live entertainment. The absence of excellence in both realms prompted Briatore to create Billionaire during Formula 1’s off-season. The first restaurant, located in Porto Cervo, Italy, quickly drew in the jet-set crowd and served as the catalyst for a network of destinations that now span across Europe, the UK, the Middle East, and Africa. Its deliberately attention-grabbing and provocative name epitomized Briatore’s innovative spirit.

The Dubai location, launched in 2016, underwent a conceptual transformation at the close of 2020 to align with contemporary tastes. Recently, Flavio Briatore visited Dubai to reintroduce this revamped venue to the world. Despite the global pandemic, his audience’s craving for extravagant dining and entertainment experiences remains undiminished. Even though dance floors may currently be off-limits, Flavio Briatore’s passion for delivering theatricality, spectacle, and sheer enjoyment remains as vibrant as ever.

“Previously, we had a restaurant featuring a dancefloor, but the new format is thriving,” says Flavio Briatore, his face lit up with a grin. “We’re consistently fully booked every night, even during the summer months. The cuisine is renowned as one of the finest in Dubai, and there’s no doubt about the exceptional quality of the entertainment. Our audience comprises repeat visitors who return to relish the food, the vibrant atmosphere, the top-notch quality, the reasonable prices, and the overall ambiance.”

With all the necessary safety measures firmly in place, the show unquestionably continues.

“It’s quite unusual to witness Dubai bustling during the summer, but it’s beneficial for our business, especially with fewer people traveling. People are eager to find ways to enjoy their money.”

This ‘somehow’ translates into an opulent nightly extravaganza – a Grand Show – intertwined with an exceptional dining experience that seamlessly blends New-Asian modernity and Italian authenticity. Delights like Wagyu beef carpaccio, phyllo pastry complemented by wasabi mayo, and tableside-prepared guacamole are savored as the stage lights dim, and world-class performers grace the spotlight. It’s a fully immersive encounter unlike any other, captivating all the senses in an unforgettable evening filled with visual splendor, melodious tunes, and a tapestry of flavors.

Has Flavio Briatore drawn from the wisdom gained while steering a racing team to inform his leadership in the hospitality domain?

“The formula for managing people, whether in a racing team or a restaurant, remains consistent,” he explains. “There’s no disparity. What’s essential is crafting a harmonious team where every member, from the kitchen’s most junior staff to the top-tier executive, collaborates seamlessly. Success or failure is a collective endeavor. Whether the ultimate outcome is a victorious race or a fully booked restaurant, you’re still overseeing people.”

“Whether it’s achieving victory on the racetrack or ensuring a bustling restaurant, at the core, it’s all about managing people.”
– Flavio Briatore

According to Flavio Briatore, the landscape of entertainment has been permanently altered by Covid, with a shift away from large-scale events. He emphasizes the necessity for business owners to adapt, including those in the restaurant industry.

Apart from implementing a rigorous testing regimen for staff, which he believes instills confidence in patrons, Flavio Briatore has refocused on delivering a distinctive experience that begins the moment guests step into Billionaire Mansion.

“Everyone is treated equitably; there’s no doubt about that. Whether our guest is a billionaire or not, which most are not, is immaterial. What truly matters is that our clients feel at ease and welcomed. Our waitstaff now function as our frontline ambassadors, understanding our customers, ensuring their comfort and sense of belonging. They are proactive, driven, and dedicated to ensuring people want to return. And they do.”

Regarding leadership qualities that have consistently enabled him to establish large and prosperous brands, he underscores the importance of clear communication. “Being clear and managing people in a way that aligns with the concept is indispensable. This is crucial because individuals are the integral components of any business and need to wholeheartedly embrace every facet of it, striving for excellence in every detail.”


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