HARD ROCK Cafe Manila has come home — sort of — as the second branch of the chain restaurant is back in Glorietta 3, Makati City. It now occupies a new space a floor below its longtime haunt on the third floor of the mall.

“The first plan was the comeback, so [Glorietta] offered us a space, but it turned out that it would be better if we open in another city first… for the comeback because of the previous negative issue with the former franchisee,” Clint Brian Peck, director for operations at the Hard Rock Cafe Manila, told BusinessWorld during a launch event on Feb. 27.

Hard Rock Cafe was under Hard Rock Cafe (Makati City) Inc. for more than 20 years and had a space in Glorietta 3, but had to close its doors in 2017 after facing a P22-million tax deficiency case filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue. This even as the Court of Tax Appeals ruled in favor of the former franchisee.

A year later, the American chain has returned with a new franchisee, the Bistro Group, which is known for bringing international and homegrown restaurant concepts to the Philippines, including Italianni’s and Denny’s, among others.

The first Hard Rock Cafe under the Bistro Group opened the same year in a 663-square meter space inside S’Maison in Conrad Hotel Manila.

This year, Hard Rock returns to Makati, taking up a 621-square meter space on the second floor of Glorietta 3 previously occupied by the NBA Store. The space seats 225 people.

The restaurant has its own entrance outside the mall, with the lower level functioning as the merchandise store. The lower level was originally the Hard Rock store, so, in a sense, they really came home.

“Our customers are happy that Hard Rock is here. Again,” Mr. Peck said.

Unlike the Conrad location where it attracts mostly the local market, the Makati branch has a healthy mix of locals and expats assigned in Makati.

“The longtime customers of Hard Rock come here and bring their family with them because some them have families now and they want to show their kids where they used to go when they were younger,” Mr. Peck explained.

The dining area is filled with memorabilia — from a percussion set used by John Tempesta, to a guitar from Carlos Santana, and a shirt paying homage to the 1969 Woodstock Festival.

Posters and pictures of artists ranging from Madonna to the Backstreet Boys are also displayed.

Beyond banking on nostalgia, Hard Rock is now focused on being known as a restaurant with entertainment instead of an entertainment space with a restaurant, thus the introduction of the new menu.

Along with the restaurant’s signature dishes — Original Legendary Burger, Hickory Smoked Ribs, and Mango Tango — the Hard Rock menu now has new dishes like Spinach and Artichoke dip served with tortilla chips and house-made pico de gallo, and the California-style Cobb salad with grilled chicken, avocado, roasted cord, black beans, Monterey Jack cheese and toasted pepitas on top of greens dressed in ranch dressing. It is sort of a taco salad sans the tortilla.

They now also offer crispy flatbreads like the Three cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, and Monterey Jack) and Roma tomatoes.

For mains, the restaurant has an upgrade for its Legendary Burger — the 24 Karat Gold Leaf Burger in which the patty is topped with 24k gold leaf.

“It’s pure gold — for true rockstars!,” a press release crows.

Mr. Peck said they are looking to open another Hard Rock, this time in Manila, specifically in Ermita as they secured a space near Robinsons Place Manila.

The scheduled opening is by the third quarter of the year. This will be followed by the opening of Hard Rock Cebu in the fourth quarter. — Zsarlene B. Chua