Thursday, November 15, 2018
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Manila ‘rocks’ again

/ 05:14 AM November 09, 2018

Patrons rock to music by a live band at a Hard Rock concert.

Filipinos can have a rocking—even swinging, twisting, swaying and popping—Christmas when the Bistro Group reopens the iconic Hard Rock Café early in December at S Maison of Conrad’s in Pasay City.

Both Jean-Paul Manuud, president and chief operating officer of The Bistro Group, the new franchise holder of the American chain, and Steve Yang, Hard Rock International area vice president for Asia-Pacific franchise development and operations, enthused about the new location.

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Manuud says S Maison is really their choice for the relaunch as Hard Rock “will have access to a diverse market, different types of clients.”

Yang says going to a mall is in response to changing times. After 48 years of using free-standing locations, they had to consider traffic—both human and vehicular—and location. Hard Rock had to adapt, particularly to the growth of malls.

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“We have to trust our [local] partners [to find the right spot],” Yang says.

And with a new generation of clientele, Manuud says the design will also have to evolve while still keeping the familiar touches that made Hard Rock—which offers a one-of-a-kind blend of music, entertainment, iconic merchandise and authentic American fare—distinctive and easily identifiable in different parts of the world.

Yang says some things had to be constant in all Hard Rock outlets like the “brand standard for design, food execution, marketing and retail,” but the chain had become more flexible. “We understand the changing markets. Every market is different now,” he says.

Yang adds that markets have “so different lifestyles. What works in the Philippines may not work in Dubai, for instance. So we have to be flexible.”

The menu, too, will feature some changes, says Josh Boutwood, corporate chef. Well-loved Hard Rock dishes will remain. “We will keep our identity but local customers could expect Filipino-inspired items,” Boutwood says.

“We are eager to offer guests a new menu that tap into consumer demands and trends. Hard Rock Café at S Maison will have lighter items, shareable dishes and big portions, while maintaining the quality and fresh ingredients that our guests have come to expect from Hard Rock,” says Anibal Fernandez, Hard Rock’s vice president for franchise operations and development.

Music, so much a part of Hard Rock’s DNA of course, will cater to the Filipinos’ eclectic taste. Yang acknowledges the innate musicality of Filipinos such that entertainment will respond to “whatever appeals to the local market,” in addition to the trademark rock and roll.

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Hard Rock’s Jumbo Combo

Rommel Turbanos, Bistro Group vice president for operations, says patrons can expect “a big mix of different bands.”

Of course, the new Hard Rock will carry the same selection of merchandise that has made it, in Yang’s words, “one of the biggest souvenir stores in the world,” selling sought-after T-shirts, pins, glass work and more. Manuud says less than 20 percent of the 600-plus square meters space at S Maison will be for merchandise.

Yang says Hard Rock acquired different “personalities” in different countries—drinks place in some, entertainment destination in others—but he expects a “pretty balanced” identity in the Philippines, with patrons visiting for the whole package.

For the second coming of Hard Rock in the Philippines, Yang says part of the reason they chose to partner with the Bistro Group is its “high presence in the Philippines,” with its brands already established in key cities. “The Bistro Group is a strong industry player and with its robust portfolio of brands, as well as its track record for more than 20 years, we are confident that they will be a strong partner to help us take Hard Rock to the next level in the Philippines.”

Manuud says, “We believe that this collaboration will spark growth for both The Bistro Group and Hard Rock Café.” He adds Hard Rock is “a very good addition to Bistro’s stable of brands” and will not compete with, but complement, the other members of the “family.”

He gave the assurance Hard Rock will get the same “commitment, passion and [attention to] quality” that distinguished other Bistro brands. —CONTRIBUTED

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