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Sydney restaurant 7by7 is having an amazing 2023 by using teamwork, dedication, and fun to overcome five years of non-stop challenges and unforeseen obstacles, and its gobbling up awards and accolades along the way.  


“Last year was wild; learning about Sydney and downtown,” says Tristan Barnes.


Barnes arrived in the Third from Toronto in 2017. She’s worked in the restaurant scene since; eventually being headhunted in 2021 by the previous 7by7 general manager to manage the front of the house. When that manager left, Barnes took the reins.


Being from Canada’s largest city, Barnes is used to having options, especially for fun. That’s one advantage she hopes she has brought to 7by7.


“We want to have fun,” says Barnes of the team at 7by7.


Recreate the menus + vibe


The restaurant closes bi-annually every May and November to recreate its food and cocktail menus, and sometimes the ambiance to keep things fresh and Thirders wanting to return.


In May the resto focuses on the palates of tourists with Thirders’ favourites always available. Salads and seafood, highlight the menu until the leaves start to turn. In November, comfort food and local cravings dominate. 


You don’t have to look beyond their socials to see why their cocktails are so popular. “We are a cocktail bar,” says Barnes. And people come in regularly to enjoy both the new and classic drinks that the staff serve up. The restaurant is fortunate, she says, to have a lot of local support.


The revamps are a team effort at 7by7.


“Nobody says that’s not my job,” she says.


That includes when they are off the clock. It is the norm for staff to work to improve the restaurant – and they want to.


During seasonal closings it’s not only menus that change, the team also gives the restaurant a facelift between taste testings. The current paint job is the work of off-duty 7by7 staff. 


Award-Winning Year


This year that hard work paid off for the restaurant. Of the 21 food category awards given out annually by the Community Votes Awards, 7by7 won 20.


The restaurant also took home this year’s Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s People Choice Award for Favourite Place to Eat.


“We deserve it. We put a lot of work into it,” says Barnes. “It matters; it means something to them,” she says, referring to how much her team appreciates the recognition.


“I really have good staff; I can’t say that enough. Without staff we would be nothing,” she praises.


Of the comments they get, “97 percent are about the food and the staff,” she says. “I don’t make the food. I don’t serve the food. They do,” she says pointing to her staff working behind and around her.


Rising to the Challenges


Considering the challenges that the restaurant has faced in the last five years, these wins are that much more impressive, and appreciated.


Ibrahim Geisa bought the building on Charlotte Street that houses 7by7 in 2018 after immigrating to Canada with his wife. The next year they opened Khufu Restaurant and Bakery, an Egyptian restaurant, which included an ice cream parlour shop.


Geisa’s wife was the chef at Khufu. The family lived above the restaurant giving Geisa easy access to their customers. He took full advantage. According to Barnes, he used the time getting to know his customers. “Now he is not allowed,” said Barnes.


Unfortunately, what can only be described as a perfect storm hit the family and it would take their new life together in the Third in unforeseen and unfortunate directions.


Before the restaurant and its new menu offerings could find its footing with local food explorers, Covid arrived. When the couple thought it could take no more bad news, some came.


Due to immigration problems, Geisa’s wife was forced to return to Egypt. But the restaurant and the building that houses it was owned by Geisa and by now their two grown children were in Canada too.


And then Geisa was also forced from the province as his wife had previously been.


Suddenly a new restaurant had no boss and no chef, yet an owner, one that has now been absent from 7by7 for three years. “He is eager to be here,” says Barnes. “He has tried multiply avenues. He deserves to be a Canadian citizen.”


Beyond the challenges that come with an absent owner, the restaurant has faced Mother Nature and heavy equipment as it carves out a life on Charlotte Street.


Last year’s Hurricane Fiona came with a 12-day power outage resulting in $10,000 of food waste. This year, the restaurant sits on the section of Charlotte Street undergoing phase two of the street’s renovation. That meant it summer’s money-maker, the patio, wasn’t an option.


“They have all seen the hard times,” she Barnes of the staff who together survived the Geisas’ reluctant absence, Covid, Fiona, and Charlotte Street’s construction. 


But it is those hard times that bring the team together and eager to overcome whatever comes at them.


Despite not being present, Geisa knows what’s happening at his restaurant and is very thankful for the dedicated team he has at 7x7. “He says ‘thank you’ a lot,” says Barnes. “Thank you to me and to the team. Thank you, he says that a lot.”


That gratitude motivates the team.


“We are going to keep going for him,” Barnes says. “He is awesome; he cares about the staff.”



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