By Denise A. Valdez

THE Philippines’ appetite for celebrations is opening endless opportunities for the food and beverage (F&B) industry, as a young player such as The Moment Group is already seeking expansion outside Metro Manila and abroad seven years into the game.

The company behind 8Cuts Burgers, Manam Comfort Filipino and Ooma Bold Japanese is heading into 2020 with plans to set foot in Bacoor and Baguio and beef up its current roster of 12 restaurant brands.

Moment is targeting to open Manam in the two new locations within the first quarter next year and launch at least two new homegrown brands, including a new Filipino concept.

The company said it is motivated by the warm reception for its locally made brands such as Manam, which recently joined a pop-up in Singapore and sold out in 24 hours.

“These past few years, there’s been a lot of interest in Manam and this pop-up, our first outside the country, is our bid to really explore that…,” Abba S. Napa, co-founder for creative development in Moment, said in an email interview with BusinessWorld.

Aside from 8Cuts, Manam and Ooma, Moment also handles Manam Express, Shawa Wama, The Mess Hall, Mecha Uma, Mo’ Cookies, Phat Pho, Bank Bar and the local operations of Din Tai Fung. It also operates a catering and events business.

“We’re fortunate on two levels: that we love building our own brands and that we’ve found success in doing that. I think one of Moment’s strengths and something that makes the organization really special is the collaborative way we create a brand,” Eliza R. Antonino, founding and managing partner of Moment, said in the same email.

The company said it sees a low barrier to entry in the F&B industry in the Philippines, which Ms. Antonino dubbed as the “new fashion” as it started to attract even big retailers. “Our malls now have a bigger F&B footprint and I foresee the industry growing even more in the coming years,” she said.

Moment Co-founder for Strategic Partnerships Jon J. Syjuco said this trend is resulting in more astute consumers, and in return a more challenging scenario for new players in the F&B field.

But Ms. Napa said Moment is welcoming such competition with open arms, noting the company is maintaining its growth with near 3,000 employees at present.

“I find it apt that this point in time in the evolution of the Philippine F&B industry coincides with our seventh birthday… To us that represents striking a balance between maintaining our esprit de corps — our willingness to risk and be bold — with the reality that we are getting larger and we now have more responsibilities,” she said.

Since the three joined together in 2012 to form Moment, the company said it was able to open around 40 stores across town and record a double-digit growth year on year.

As it seeks further growth at the unfolding of a new decade, Ms. Napa said Moment continues to target the premium casual dining category, banking on customers’ pursuit of value for money.

“The majority of our portfolio is focused on the occasion of self-reward, and we’d like to hit all occasions for use with a core portfolio built with the DNA to scale,” she said.