Shining a light on how a larger enterprise within the events industry has managed not one, not two, but three tumultuous events in short succession and how he, as the CEO has personally managed his responsibilities and mental health along the journey.
Hatem Saleh – CEO, Atlantic Group
In 1994 Hatem Saleh opened his first business in St Kilda. It was a seafood restaurant known as Atlantic which flourished with Hatem’s commitment and knowledge of the industry. Having worked in entry level positions within the hospitality sector for many years, Hatem had developed an appetite and passion for the industry that would soon act as the launching pad to an impressive career, solidifying his name throughout Melbourne’s thriving food and entertainment scene.
In 1999, Hatem noticed there was a gap in the market for event spaces catering to 500+ people. An opportunity in a neglected shed became available at South Wharf and Atlantic (the event space) was born. A true entrepreneur, Hatem saw further potential in the precinct and added spaces Sumac (a smaller intimate event space) and Alumbra (a waterside bar and nightclub) in 2002.
It was during this time Hatem formed Roar Projects with a close network of industry innovators. Separate to Atlantic Group event spaces, Alumbra was the first addition to the Roar Project family. As a Director of Roar Projects and CEO of Atlantic Group, Hatem would continue to balance the separate portfolios with a firm focus on creating different, yet complimentary, experiences amongst the hospitality houses.
For seven years Hatem prospered at the South Wharf location however in July 2006, the State Government announced plans to redevelop and due to compulsory acquisition of the site it was time to relocate.
Soon after, Hatem’s Atlantic Group was successful in a highly competitive tender to redevelop Central Pier, Docklands. With a multi-million dollar investment geared toward the renewal of the new waterfront destination, the restored facilities have fast become Melbourne’s most sought after spaces. The relocation of the existing businesses Atlantic (now known as MAIÀ), Sumac and Alumbra were joined by newly created venues, Peninsula and Sketch.
In 2008 with four premium event spaces and Melbourne’s hottest nightclub booming, Hatem decided it was the opportune time to launch an outside catering division. Specialising in creating seamless and unique experiences in the location of choice, the challenge of bringing an event to life in any setting imaginable was a thrill he could not ignore and became the newest addition to the Atlantic Group offering.
Competition was rife within the industry and Hatem’s continued philosophy for growth has been crucial to the direction of the brand. Atlantic Group has prospered by setting trends and not following them. Building relationships is key and out of the box thinking is essential. Recognised for his hands on approach to all facets of the business, Atlantic Group has become renowned for that personal touch that seldom exists in businesses of similar scale.
With this philosophy in mind Hatem pursued an opportunity in 2009 where Atlantic Group successfully tendered for retail leases in the Crown Entertainment Complex. And in 2011 premium seafood restaurant, The Atlantic, was opened along with basement bar, The Den. Keeping with momentum, Hatem felt it was time to introduce the Atlantic Group brand and its catering services to Melbourne’s prestigious major event scene. And in 2011 the Group was successful in a tender to cater the Victoria Racing Club’s Melbourne Cup Carnival. Allocated just two marquees on initiation, Atlantic Group now cater to more than 50% of the course and in excess of 9,000 people over four racedays. It was then 2013 when Atlantic Group added to the portfolio with another successful tender to cater at the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix which continues to form part of an iconic calendar of annual events.
Atlantic Group’s rapid growth and prestigious status amongst Melbourne’s hospitality scene, allowed Hatem to undertake a Roar Project expansion with the opening of Ms Collins in 2014. With a line of eager Melburnians that wraps the perimeter of the building on a nightly basis, this iconic establishment is amongst the city’s very best.
An entrepreneur and innovator, Hatem’s unique ability to extract the full potential from each and every one of his brands and locations. At his Central Pier location Hatem made way for Atlantic Group’s Mill & Bakery (2013), an artisan style bakery. Then came Mama Rumaan (2016), a contemporary Middle Eastern canteen by the waterfront. The Crown Entertainment Complex location has seen the launch of Fish & Chippery by The Atlantic (2015), which involved converting a small portion of The Atlantic’s dining room to a water facing takeaway shop with a twist.
Most recently, Hatem has been integral to the successful tender process resulting in the addition of two new Atlantic Group event spaces – Gardens House (2017), Royal Botanic Gardens and Port Melbourne Yacht Club (2019), Port Melbourne.
A visionary and leader in the industry, Hatem’s desire to take Atlantic Group to new heights has cemented the brand as the ultimate hospitality hybrid. With an out of the box approach and reputation for encouraging an ‘anything is possible’ mentality amongst his staff, Atlantic Group has fast become an iconic Melbourne empire.
Today the brand is home to an eclectic mix of event spaces, restaurants, bars, eateries, destination and major event catering services. With the addition of franchising opportunities, Hatem has been instrumental in introducing select brands to audiences beyond our borders. A dedicated CEO, Hatem also continues to flex his entrepreneurial talent with various side projects and businesses.
Recognition: In 2008, Hatem was a finalist in the prestigious Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards. Not long after the International Special Events Society (ISES) recognised Hatem with the Lifetime Achievement Award 2012 for his contribution to the events industry. In 2012, City of Melbourne also recognised Hatem’s achievements with the Melbourne Award, for his individual contribution to the hospitality landscape across South Wharf, Docklands and Southbank.
Atlantic Group have won 40 prestigious awards including the City of Melbourne’s Melbourne Awards, Restaurant and Catering Associations’ Best Overall National Caterer and Telstra’s State and overall National Business awards.
“This series reinforces that you are not alone and everyone has felt the weight of the pandemic. We need to share stories, advice and words of encouragement so that together we can begin to rebuild.”
“The professional production and relaxed approach of the series is phenomenal. Each show is captivating at a time where people are craving fresh content and conversation.”
LinkedIn: Hatem Saleh