Allow me to share with you my talk during the 2nd Top Menu Masters Conference in Tagaytay…
Good Morning! I’m honored to contribute to the restaurant industry by sharing with you What’s Hot and What’s Not In the Evolving Philippine Dining Out Market. I’m an engineer by profession. I worked for P&G for 13 years as an IT Manager and turned into a full-time blogger in 2008 to focus on OAP. I don’t know how to cook and my family is not into any restaurant business.
What I can share with you today are the insights that I got from running one of the most popular food and travel blogs in the Philippines for 5+ years. I’ve been to most of the awesome restaurants across the Philippines — just name almost any restaurant and I’ll share with you my experience there. I interact everyday with Filipinos who love food. Since I don’t have a conflict of interest with any restaurant, I can give my insights without any bias.
More younger people are eating out with friends and their barkada as a way of hanging out. When I started OAP in 2005, most of my readers were professionals and families.
Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the blog has already penetrated the college market. I have readers from La Salle, Ateneo, and other schools.
Because of food blogs, more people are willing to try new restaurants based on positive reviews of the bloggers and the readers. The fear of making a bad choice in a restaurant is a bit minimized, so you don’t waste money.
Filipinos are appreciating the quality and taste of food vs. going for quantity of rice and relatively cheaper prices.
Maybe due to the increase of local flights of budget airlines, more people are now able to travel around the Philippines and appreciate Filipino food in other regions. Also, they are able to travel abroad and be exposed to other cuisines.
In the last travel fair, our hottest tour was the Culinary Tour of Batanes despite the offer of low airfare for Southeast Asian Travel to Singapore, Malaysia, etc.
In this presentation, I would like to share with you my insights on the Foodie Trends so that you can ride it early on and leverage it for your business. It is important to take advantage of the trend early so that you can benefit from the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
Let me tell you a story about these cupcakes.
The first time I ordered cupcakes from Sonja, it instantly hit me that it would start the cupcake craze in the Philippines when the Serendra store would open. In June 2006, I created a blog post entitled, “Sonja’s Cupcakes — Creating the Cupcake Craze in the Philippines,” predicting the popularity of this sweet treat. After that, we saw almost every baker creating his/her own cupcakes.
The first few bakers who rode the cupcake trend early on were noticed immediately and gained instant fame. Those who followed much later were “drowned” in the noise when cupcakes became mainstream.
In winning with a trend, it is important to distinguish it from a Fad.
Let’s take the Wagyu trend, for example.
The Trend: Foodies were looking for more yummy ways to enjoy steaks. We heard about the legends of Wagyu in Japan, so the foodies wanted to experience how soft it is and how yummy it is. The focus was on the taste and texture.
The Fad: Using Wagyu in just about anything even if it’s not yummy anymore. There is one shabu-shabu restaurant that introduced Wagyu as a top-of-the-line ingredient in Shabu Shabu. It did not work because Wagyu, when cooked in hot pot, becomes chewy and bland. Foodies are smart and won’t readily order it just because it has a “Wagyu” name.
Don’t go after the Fad. The key to winning is understanding what makes the Foodies talk about food and understanding what they want.
Food is part of the Filipino culture; you’ll notice that it is always part of any conversation. In fact, when Pinoys travel, food is an important factor. If the place is bad but the food is good, the overall experience is good. However, if the food is bad — no matter how good the scenery — the experience will most likely be remembered as negative.
Ask: What is it about the ambiance, what is it about the food, what is it about the service that foodies are looking for?
As early as Feb 2008, we were able to spot the first-ever Frozen Yogurt in Cold Spoon in Pampanga. We raved about it and that started the Froyo craze in the Philippines. Most of the establishments that launched Frozen yogurt (like White Hat, California Berry and, eventually, Red Mango) enjoyed the benefits of word-of-mouth. Now, a lot of restaurants are introducing their own version of yogurt, and people are getting tired of it.
This 2010, check out the 10 biggest Foodie Trends you can explore for your business. 🙂
There are two types of consumers in Manila — The Foodies (which is a growing
segment) and the Non-Foodies (who go for Eat-all-you-can Rice and Chicken).
Let me tell you a story about one of our culinary tours of Tagaytay.
A call center company sponsored a culinary tour for its agents to enjoy the food in Tagaytay for a
day. We went to the best restaurants — Bawai, Chateau Hestia and ended up in Antonio’s
Restaurant. When we were eating at Antonio’s, there were a number of people complaining. They
wanted to have more rice, have bigger portions of food, and maybe just order a simple chicken
dish. These are the Non-Foodies.
The Foodies, on the other hand, appreciate good food. There are three types emerging:
1. The Snobbish Gourmets. These people have been exposed to the restaurants abroad and take pride in eating in establishments with Michelin Stars. These are the people who really know their food and look down on people who pretend to know all about food.
2. The Wannabe Chefs. These are the foodies who aspire to be chefs someday and look up to other well-known chefs or celebrity chefs. After they complete a culinary course, they already feel and act like chefs. They look upon themselves as part of a higher level from the ordinary people who just love food.
3. The Amateur Foodies. This is the biggest segment, and it’s growing everyday. They label themselves as Foodies because they enjoy food. Period. It is very easy to belong to this group, which usually entails just eating out and trying out good food. They don’t care about the chefs or the snobbish gourmets. I belong to this group.
Notice the advertising that most restaurants put out there — they appeal to the first
two segments. Most of the endorsers for restaurants or food are chefs.
I’ll tell you a secret… One of the main reasons why Our Awesome Planet is popular is
because it is shared from the point of view of an Amateur Foodie, which a lot of people can
The hottest craze this year is: Chocolate
It started when…
– Heavenly Chocolates opened in October 2008, educating people on the different origins of chocolate
– Chocolate-covered Espresso Beans were introduced by Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
– Benoit Nicolay Chocolates were introduced in the market
– The cult favorite Royce Chocolate opened in December 2008
– Machiavelli Chocolatier Eurasian Chocolate opened in April 2009
– We discovered Erica Paredes’ Happy Bacon Chocolates during the Ultimate Taste Test
– In December 2009, Maitre Chocolatier Boutique Cafe opened its doors
– Max Brenner Chocolate reopened in Greenbelt 5
– Chocolate Fire Boutique Café is opening on March 1 — all foodies are excited!
– We heard stories about Shelenni Gatlabayan’s Cacao in Antipolo, and…
– Sins Choc Shoppe, producer of top pralines in Singapore, is opening in September
Gourmet Chocolates will be a hit this year. Ride the trend while it is on its way up.
There’s this story of a Chinese Restaurant with no name in Rockwell. Legend has it that it serves spicy Hunan cuisine and that mainland Chinese could be seen eating there.
Foodies just love secret or underground restaurants that serve good food. People flocked to this hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant along Camia St.
Private Dining restaurants are hot as well because they are more, well, private — not in the mainstream, and they can offer food with higher quality because rent is typically lower. The latest private dining restaurant that opened is Qasa 61 in Marikina. It was a hit during Valentine’s. (Who would ever imagine that a place hidden in the small streets of Marikina would be such a hit?)
These restos work because they can focus their money on the quality of food because their Rent and Marketing expenses are usually low. They are primarily marketed through word-of-mouth.
Manila is Demanding Better Food from the Restaurant Industry.
Filipino Food in Manila is commercialized in taste. Most of the top Filipino restaurants can be found outside of the metro.
Manila-based Foodies would love to see:
Authentic Ilocano Cuisine — the benchmark is Saramsam in Laoag
Authentic Bicolano Cuisine — there’s none in Manila except for Top Meals
Now is the time to focus on the quality of Filipino Food. Café Juanita and Milky Way have established themselves. But, still, if you look at the best restaurants in Manila, they usually serve continental dishes — like those in Le Souffle, Aubergine and Lolo Dad’s.
I’m still surprised that some new restaurants market themselves as Fusion Restaurants. The great ISCAHM teachers and students recently opened Celsius in Tomas Morato, and it is marketed as fusion. Foodies don’t like fusion that much anymore. Foodies also don’t like food trying hard to be like somebody else’s (like the Singaporean Food cooked by Filipino Chefs in Makansutra).
Foodies are after quality fare and do not like the commercialized ones. They are also still looking for authentic Taiwanese, Szechuan or Shanghainese, and Singaporean food.
Specialty is now the name of the game. Recently, foodies were raving about the Peanut Butter resto in SM North Edsa and the Greek restaurant in the food court of Glorietta.
A frequently asked question in OAP is where to go on a date…
This is one of the biggest foodie niches out there. Typically, special occasions are reasons to go
out on a date. This would include monthsaries, anniversaries, V-day, b-day, Christmas / New
Romantic Foodies look for a unique restaurant offering good food with a nice ambiance.
I did an informal survey last Valentine’s and asked people where they spent it. There were three
categories of answers:
1. Romantics celebrated V-day at home with a special dinner, cooked by one of the partners.
2. Romantics traveled to nearby Tagaytay and Pampanga. In the recent V-day celeb, most people went to the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.
3. Lastly, Romantics celebrated it by going out. Usually they have a ritual for pre-Valentine’s, Valentine’s Day, and Post-Valentine’s.
Foodies are becoming health-conscious. So far, for this year, there’s a run almost every
week. In the past, you’d be lucky already if 1,000 runners would join the race. Last weekend,
12,000 people ran the Century Run — the biggest run ever.
When people run, they eat a lot. Most of the trainings and races are done in the morning.
Eating a breakfast buffet after a race is important. The Breakfast Scene is also becoming popular
where people run, like the Fort.
Before a race, people eat out or carbo load... They are starting to be particular about
nutrition too. It’s amazing to see how people are starting to be healthy these days…
When foodies want to de-stress or celebrate, they would go to a “feel-good” restaurant.
Yummy food is a very important factor, of course. The warm welcome of the waiters, interiors of the place and the ambiance are also very, very important. The personality of the owners is reflected in the ambiance.
Van Gogh is Bipolar by Jetro is a good example. The artsy ambiance is quite unique and very homey. Jetro cooks the food himself and, at the same time, entertains guests. The concept of the resto revolves around his bipolar personality and how the food he serves would help in preventing mood swings.
Café Juanita is another good example. It is one of the best Filipino restaurants in town. What I like about it is the ambiance changes every time because Dr. Vasquez, the owner, would move one piece of decor each time he is in the restaurant.
There are a lot of diploma “chefs” and celebrity “chefs” serving mediocre food, and Manila foodies are getting a bit tired of it.
Most of the culinary schools have set up their own training restaurants. There are also established chefs who create restaurants one after another like a fast food chain (but, in reality, they are just renaming/rebranding it and playing around with the pricing).
I would much prefer someone who doesn’t have a culinary degree but does know how to cook well as it is his/her passion. Take, for example, Marsha Adams’ Tuscany Restaurant. It is one of the most recently raved about restaurants in Tagaytay. She just loves to cook and you know the food there is served with love. Combine that with a warm Mediterranean ambiance and a relaxing sunset lounge — foodies would much prefer this kind of experience.
I started food blogging in 2005. And now, in 2010, almost everyone is a food blogger.
Food blogging is not a fad. It will constantly be there because of the need of people to immortalize their experience in a blog post. For Filipinos, eating is a social event. It is often enjoyed with family and friends, so capturing that point in history with a written account is accomplished by sharing it through Facebook or one’s own blog.
Restaurants should help these foodies create that memorable experience every time. Serving the best quality of food is a given, but the waiters’ level of service plays a very important role as well. It could be as simple as offering to take their group shot, or helping them when they take a picture of the menu, or maybe creating a special gimmick for a group celebrating a special occasion. They could also suggest the best items on the menu versus just saying all the items are good and then proceed to recommend the most expensive item offered.
To close, I would like to share with you the best Filipino Meal we ever had…
It was in a place in Guimaras. The food for the day there is based on what is fresh and available in the market. It is cooked slowly, with love, and using traditional methods. The ambiance is very homey and you always get to chat with the owner. The people there are very friendly too. The food is cooked to perfection — juicy and flavorful — and often served with the fresh fruits for the day. I can still remember it to this day… This is how Filipino Cuisine should be experienced.
Any guess as to where it is?
Isla Naburot in Guimaras
Ever since that wonderful experience, I’ve been on a quest to find the best Filipino Restaurant in the country.
My favorites are:
Ka Lui in Puerto Princesa
Breakthrough in Iloilo
Claude Tayag in Pampanga
Ugu Bigyan in Tiaong, Quezon
Kinabuhayan Cafe in Dolores, Quezon
Saramsam Cafe in Laoag, Ilocos Norte
Café Juanita in Manila
It’s been an honor sharing these foodie insights with the restaurant industry and community. Together, let’s take the Manila dining scene to a whole new level in 2010!
Add me in Facebook, and Add me in Twitter: antondiaz.
Live an Awesome Life,
Call or Text Me: +63917 5683-627 (LOVE-OAP)
P.S. Thanks to Adolf for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this industry! 🙂 Let me know what you think…