NOSTALGIC music fans bit their fists hard when Hard Rock Café in Glorietta closed its doors in 2017. Now, they can release their fists, for it has reopened at the Conrad S Maison in the Mall of Asia area in Pasay City.
The original Hard Rock in Makati, which opened in the mid-’90s, was the company’s main foothold in Manila. The parent company was founded in London in 1971, but changed hands several times since, before finally landing in the lap of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Explaining how the company acquired the local franchise, Rommel Turbanos, Vice-President of The Bistro Group (the company behind the Manila franchises of TGI Friday’s and Red Lobster, among others), pointed out that the holder of the previous Philippine franchise was a Singapore-based company and when its franchise deal ended, it was not renewed. “We were looking at the opportunity to bring Hard Rock to complete our portfolio,” said Mr. Turbanos.
“I think the international principal wanted somebody who was really local,” he noted. “It’s different when you have the locals, to have a good grasp of the market.”
While Mr. Turbano says that The Bistro Group has long been a “believer” in the brand, he also talked about how it is a perfect fit for The Bistro Group’s portfolio. “We know there’s a big opportunity in terms of the food,” he said. But also, “Filipinos love music. That’s a bigger part of the consideration, plus the merchandise.”
The merchandise may also play a part in the future success of the new location: Mr. Turbano identifies a large part of the Mall of Asia Complex crowd as a “good mix of locals and tourists” — tourists, some of whom happen to collect Hard Rock Café merchandise from around the world.
The new Hard Rock Café can seat about 220 people, and will feature live performances.
As for the food, BusinessWorld had a satisfying time polishing off ribs, chicken, and brisket, but will gladly abstain from the restaurant’s sticky sweet signature cocktails, the Bahama Mama and the Electric Blues. Stick to the beer.
As mentioned above, the first Hard Rock Café in Manila opened in 1995. The college kids who may once have populated it have since grown up — which would explain the volume of cheerful uncles during the Jan. 10 launch. Mr. Turbanos outlines the strategy to keep it relevant to younger crowds: “We’ll play different genres.” It seems to have worked once: this 20-something reporter was drawn to the old Hard Rock Cafe thanks to a performance by the Swedish indie band, The Radio Dept., back in 2011.
Meanwhile, at the new Hard Rock Cafe, the aforementioned cheerful uncles kept asking this reporter which songs I knew from the bands’ lineup of Chicago, Queen, and Styx covers. I got my revenge after they asked me about Ariana Grande’s hit, “Thank U, Next.”
The blend of old and new is also seen on the decor. All the Hard Rock Cafés worldwide have a collection of music-related memorabilia on their walls because of a tradition started by Eric Clapton (he asked to have his guitar placed over his usual seat to reserve it). The decor on the Hard Rock Cafe at S Maison includes dresses worn by Steve Nicks and Kelly Rowland on the walls.
As for other things to look forward to from the Bistro Group, Mr. Turbanos said that more Hard Rock Cafes may be set to open. And he dropped another hint about what to expect: “A lot — [think] bigger brands.” — Joseph L. Garcia
Hard Rock Café Manila is open Sunday to Thursday (11 a.m. to midnight) and Friday to Saturday (11 a.m. — 1 a.m.). It is located on Level 2, S Maison at Conrad, Pasay City. For details and reservations call 990-9809).