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Name: Lama Matta
Campus: Les Roches Bluche, MBA in Hospitality Management, 2012
Current job: Hospitality Consultant at Erga Group E-Hospitality in Dubai, UAE
Lama Matta faces many challenges in her current role as an Erga Group E-Hospitality Consultant, where she is based in Dubai but opens businesses in other countries. Each franchise opportunity is unique and requires her to adapt quickly to the region’s distinct needs, culture and business regulations. Sometimes the adaptations are minor; other times they are seismic – such as the time she was tasked with opening a restaurant in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“I knew this was a country where females have very limited authority, and logistically it is much easier for gents than for ladies,” she recalls. “But as a female I had to grab the chance — to prove that I could still achieve it.” Despite all the resistance she encountered, Lama was able to launch a 400-seat restaurant on one of the most fashionable streets in Jeddah, taking care to adapt the concept to local culture and expectations.
Thankfully, most of her work responsibilities don’t present quite as much of an uphill battle. Her role consists of handling accounts for clients seeking to invest in hospitality ventures or expand on existing brands. Each client may need to draw on different areas of Erga’s expertise but Lama must excel at all of them, including project management, hospitality support and development supervision. Her typical day starts with coffee with her team, after which she is off to a full round of e-mails, meetings, and project-oriented tasks. Before leaving the office, she meets with Erga’s CEO to brief him on progress and discuss business development strategies. Then she conducts site visits for ongoing local projects to ensure that they are on track. At night, she hits the gym, hangs out with friends, and explores Dubai looking for “new F&B concepts and trendy spots in the city.”
Going out is an extension of the job in hospitality, and this is especially true for Lama, who owes her current job to a chance encounter at a restaurant. “I believe that to grow in Dubai you need to build a strong network and try to sustain it as much as possible,” she says. “After deciding to leave my previous job, I screened all the opportunities that I’d received and analyzed their benefit to my career path. Surprisingly, after conducting more than ten interviews in a month with different companies, I met my current employer when I randomly started a conversation with him and his friends about the industry at a Dubai restaurant. By the end of the dinner, I had a job offer on the table.”
In joining Erga, she chose a company of more than 800 employees. Established thirty years ago, the consultancy specializes in construction and design, applying extensive knowledge in hotel building and navigating the legal and governmental requirements along the way. Since e-hospitality is a subsidiary branch for Erga, they are able to execute projects using their own resources rather than outsourcing to subcontractors for more client cost and less quality assurance.
Lama’s latest project is the launch of a new 208 Keys hotel in a prime location Business Bay, Dubai. “I believe that this project will bring me a lot of challenges and will contribute enormously to my experience and growth,” she says.
No matter how complex the task, she faces it with confidence – and she credits Les Roches with giving her the preparation to succeed in a fast, unpredictable industry.
“The educational program at Les Roches is structured to give students all the information they need to graduate with a wide range of entrepreneurial knowledge,” Lama says.
“We all know that studying entrepreneurship on paper is not enough to give you great business instincts. That’s why Les Roches allows students to perform in real business cases, giving them a feel for business reality so they are ready for any opportunity.”
As a proud Les Roches alumna, Lama recommends the school both for its its intense program and international reputation as well as its elite faculty. “Les Roches management has the foresight to enlist the best gurus in the industry to serve as full-time teachers or frequent lecturers,” she notes.
“Holding this diploma will open a lot of doors for any graduate.”
The first door that opened for Lama happened to be in Dubai, as a Franchise Manager at Mayrig Boulevard Restaurant LLC, part of a growing restaurant group.
“After graduating from Les Roches, my plan was to travel and work abroad – due to the unstable political and economic situation in my hometown [of Beirut Lebanon],” she recalls. “I chose Dubai because it is currently regarded as the Hub of the Middle East, where big investments in our industry are always happening.” The way her career is thriving, she feels she made the right choice. And, once she has honed her advisory and management skills for a few more years, Lama has a larger goal: to own her own chain of restaurants.
“Like anyone passionate about restaurants and the Food & Beverage industry, I dream of developing my own concept,” she says. “I always imagine how the shops will look and how I will manage it and what countries I want to develop it in.” But for now, she is content developing her skills and knowledge as a consultant. “I’m very conscious that there are hidden sides to the industry and I have much to learn by working on other business accounts,” Lama says. “I’m happy to wait until I’m ready to make the transition from employee to entrepreneur!”
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