Meet Sean Barber, an ambitious entrepreneur and loving family man who recently expanded his thriving business to a new location in Menlyn, overcoming the obstacles of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has been particularly hard on the hospitality industry. Resilience has been key for people like restaurateur and family man, Sean Barber, who runs multiple establishments in South Africa. The Insider SA joined Sean and his family to hear about his latest venture in Menlyn, Pretoria and how he began his empire.

“My journey into restaurateuring ultimately started 13 years ago. I knew what I didn’t want to do, and sometimes that’s as strong as knowing what you want to do”, explains Sean. After working as a CA in London, Sean found himself unhappy and stifled. “I was yearning for a creative aspect to my profession”, he says.

That’s when the idea to go into restaurateuring struck. It was going to be a challenge, but it was worth a try. Today, Sean is the founder and CEO of Rockets Group and a renowned restaurateur with 12 establishments to his name. Rockets Group has created spaces ranging from upscale restaurants, male grooming salons, and even express stores.

While his work keeps him busy, his family keeps him grounded. In his Johannesburg home, Sean introduces The Insider to his wife Silvia, and his three children Layla, Xavi and Jules.

“What’s important to me is my family – over and above everything else. Close to that is the Rockets brand because that’s what supports my family. I’ve always said I’ve got three kids and Rockets would be the fourth one. That’s how much I love it”.

Sean is highly invested in his kids’ lives – from quality time watching television on the couch, to playing soccer and cricket in the backyard. This rambunctious home life is what motivates Sean to work even harder, saying “It’s my family, my wife and the brand – that’s what I live for”.

Sean’s latest business venture is Rockets Menlyn, a mega-venue above Times Square Casino. Initially set to open in May, COVID-19 saw the launch of the new venue moving much later than expected. “It’s been a fight getting it done, but it’s a really special space”, Sean shares.

Rockets Menlyn’s design was inspired by multiple aspects: there’s the raw and industrial feel, balanced with a forest of indoor greenery, and topped with high-end finishes that exude luxury and sophistication. “You’re going to feel spoilt from your first step into this space”, remarks Sean.

Flowing from the restaurant is Sean’s indulgence in a little bit of fun: Lolita’s. There you’ll find an impressive DJ booth accompanied by lounging couches, cocktail tables and a 44m bar: the centrepiece of the space where all the magic happens. Above is a retractable roof, making Lolita’s this Summer’s hottest rooftop location to be for a great night out. Enjoy luncheons, sundowners, and good music here.

“We have international DJs and local DJs from all over the country that come to play here for entertainment”, Sean explains. His goal with his venues, especially Rockets Menlyn, is that they becomes a one-stop shop.

“Our customers start the evening with us and they end the evening with us. If you come to Rockets, you can come for dinner, pre-drinks, to the lounge, or to the club afterwards. You don’t have to go anywhere else, and I think that sets us apart”.

The launch of Rockets Menlyn saw a host of Mzanzi stars, including rappers Da L.E.S and Nadia Nakai, DJ PH, and Ayanda MVP. Actress, Buhle Samuels captures her first impression of the space, saying, “I feel like this place is going to be like the diamond, the polished gem that is just going to do the most”.

For Sean, it’s more than a restaurant, it’s a lifestyle he intends to curate. In his opinion, to be a good restaurateur you need to have a love for people and a strong desire to please them. But with a work ethic like Sean’s and an unbeatable attitude, there’s no limit to what the Rockets can reach.