Digital Reporter

Subic Bay Development & Industrial Estate Corporation (SUDECO) is already made. It has developed a luxury seaside residential community with Ayala Land Inc. (ALI), and is also accredited by ALI’s subsidiaries: Alveo, Avida and Amaia Land Corporations. This year, it decided to launch a new project: Buendia Food by the Court in Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City. Plot twist one: It’s a food park. Plot twist two: It comes with a matching basketball court.

You might ask: Why would a company of such stature build a food park (the recently invented, rather humble, millennial playground whose gravel flooring are no match to the pristine marble tiles of the structures on its portfolio) in Makati (the already‑dense urban jungle that delights in verticality, whose establishments are often deprived of the luxury of a sprawl, and where it is seems more sensible to build a towering commercial building)?

According to its quinquagenarian President Paul Elauria: “It’s a good strategy for the company.”

Gadflies might dismiss the food park concept as a fad, but to him, it is a venture with a potential for longevity, but “only if companies running them would be creative.”

While food parks which have sprouted in the metro’s north have gained massive success (The Yard in Quezon City, for example, is expanding), the case for the Makati area, which has yet to jump in on this trend, is uncertain. With that comes a slew of responsibilities.

“We had to bring people to the area,” he said during an interview one April morning at the SUDECO office in Makati. “We had to introduce the area to them, we had to condition the minds of the guests that it is a very nice location. It’s very accessible for both sides of Manila.”

And indeed, it is. Bounded by Buendia, Bautista, and Filmore streets, it is right smack between the Mall of Asia commercial district and Makati commercial district. “In that sense,” he said, “we thought we have to look for a project that will cater to people from those communities.”

Art Erka Capili Inciong

Aside from getting 23 established as well as startup food and beverage concessionaires, the members of the board thought of a whimsical twist: adding a basketball court.

“It’s a cooperative effort among the members of the management committee,” he mused. “Some of them are really into food parks, and there’s also a group of people in the group who are into physical activities, so we thought of joining the two concepts together. Later on, we realized that food and basketball are the two top passions of the Filipinos. Even among millennials, it is a good combination.”

According to Mr. Elauria, investing in the basketball court is SUDECO’s way of assuring that Buendia Food by the Court has something unique to offer compared to other existing food parks. From a mere strategy to attract customers, the basketball court has become the trademark of the food park.

The fully covered basketball court, which has a flooring made out of vinyl laminates, is available for rent at ₱1,100 per hour. Mostly, groups of employees working near the area lease the sports venue. And after the tiring game, where else should they go for refreshments?

“We envisioned the basketball court as something that would bring people initially for the food park to be known,” he said. “Because of the lack of available basketball courts in Makati, we opened the basketball court earlier than the food park [to also serve] as the initial instrument for us to draw people in.”

“You have to be creative just like in any other businesses. You need to have something better than the competitors,” he added.

Photo Buendia Food by the Court

Though relatively new, the food park has already created a buzz among Filipino foodies, especially on social media. In just a span of two months since it opened in February, Buendia Food by the Court’s Facebook page has already generated a total of 22,339 likes. Traffic inevitably became a concern, though short‑lived—the city, after all, is infamous for its rush hours (“Actually, that’s one of the reasons why we chose to open there,” he admitted. “We thought that some people who are bored of the traffic would spend time in the food park first before going home, parang palipasin lang yung rush hour.) But the tension dissipated after merely two weeks, and people got used to it, perhaps by force of circumstance.

Mr. Elauria attributes the early success of the food park not only to its creative features and location, but, primarily, to the choices of the food it offers. From Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, and Filipino cuisines to healthy food choices, Buendia Food by the Court literally has a lot to offer to the table.

“As much as possible we try to avoid duplication. For various cuisines, we choose the best applicants among the long line of interested tenants,” he said.

At the end of the day, Mr. Elauria said, it is still the quality of a food park’s menu and services that would determine the fate of this new business venture.

“For as long as you maintain the quality of the food and the venue,” he said, “there will always be a market for the food park.”

Photos courtesy of Buendia Food by the Court