Hard Rock Café returns under new management

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In 2017, Hard Rock Café Makati City closed its doors, ending a more than 20 year run of good food and good music, but Hard Rock Café isn’t gone forever as barely a year after its disappearance, the international restaurant-bar chain has announced a comeback in Manila, with a plan to open in Conrad Hotel’s S’Maison in December.

“We plan on combining both hard core favorites of Hard Rock, at the same time creating new offerings in terms of flavor profile,” Jean-Paul Manuud, president and COO of the Bistro Group, the new franchisee of the Florida-based themed restaurant, said at a media round table on Oct. 19 in Italianni’s restaurant in Greenbelt, Makati City.

The Bistro Group is a two-decade old company which is known for bringing international and homegrown restaurant concepts such as Italianni’s, Denny’s, and Bulgogi Brothers, among others.

Hard Rock was formerly under Hard Rock Cafe (Makati City) Inc. (HRCMI), but it had to close its doors in 2017 as it faced a P22-million tax deficiency case filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, though the Court of Tax Appeals has ruled in favor of HRCMI.

The new S’Maison location is a 663-square meter, 223-seat affair which will “carry the trademarks of Hard Rock Café that makes it one of the most exciting, sophisticated and energetic brands in the world,” said a press release.

“Hard Rock has such a strong identity when it comes to music and entertainment, so we wanted to keep that as strong as possible [yet] amplified in the sense where we, in a local market, can introduce some flavors that are well-known to our customer base,” Steve D. Yang, Asia Pacific area vice-president of Hard Rock International’s franchise development and operations, said at the same round table.

Hard Rock’s new menu will be handled by Josh Boutwood, the executive chef of the Bistro Group.

And because music is the name of the game for Hard Rock, Mr. Manuud said they are currently in the process of scouting for bands which will cater to the Hard Rock market. The new location include enough space for a full band to play or even hold a mini-concert.

“Hard Rock is always related to rock music but the reality [it has] changed — now we talk about [how] Hard Rock is all about music, any kind of music: it could be pop, it could be rock, it could be EDM (electronic dance music). Like some of the Hard Rocks around the world, it’s not just rock — it’s everything,” Mr. Yang said.

Aside from the music, Mr. Yang noted that Hard Rock — with almost 200 branches worldwide under its name — is also one of the “biggest souvenir shops” in the world as its merchandise has always sold well in all of its markets.

And so the new branch of Hard Rock will dedicate a bit less than 20% of its space to merchandise done in such a way that “no one will miss the merchandise area,” said Mr. Manuud.

The S’Maison location is currently “50% done” said Mr. Manuud, and will employ approximately 80 staff members (some of whom were sent to the Hard Rock Café headquarters for training), a combination of new and old Hard Rock employees (60% new hires and 40% old hires).

Mr. Manuud said that the Pasay City location will not be the only Hard Rock Café in the country as in the near-term (possibly even next year), they are already planning “to grow the brand” and open in multiple locations including Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, Cebu City, and Entertainment City in Parañaque. — Zsarlene B. Chua