MANILA -- In just five years, The Moment Group has introduced 10 brands and opening several outlets in 27 different locations in Meto Manila. That's an average of one new branch every 70 days.
And before the year ends, the company will be adding one new branch to its growing lineup and reopening two others. It is not slowing down anytime soon.
That's an outstanding feat for a local restaurant company, especially considering how competitive the country's current food scene is. And running a restaurant is not a walk in the park either, a lot fail and only a few succeed.
“We believe that when you create a restaurant, it has to last forever because it's so hard to create one. There are far easier ways to make a living than being in food. So we try to make things that really stand the test of time,” said Abba Napa, one of the founders of The Moment Group, during the recently held The Moment Group x Bonifacio Global City Food crawl event.
In half a decade, some of the company's brands already have strong followings. Its Filipino restaurant Manam has become a go-to restaurant for those craving for local fare in a modern resto setup, while its burger joint 8Cuts has been really successful in the young market. Ooma, on the other hand, changed the way Filipinos see and taste Japanese cuisine, while Din Tai Fung is probably one of the most successful international restaurant brands in the market today.
Founded by Napa, Eli Antonino, and Jon Syjuco, The Moment Group's first restaurant was Cue Modern Barbecue, which opened in 2012 but closed down and was replaced by Ooma in 2016. Its other brands include Mecha Uma, Bank Bar, The Mess Hall, Phat Pho Manila, and Linguini Fini Manila.
Apart from Cue Modern Barbecue, they also have another concept that closed down, Bistro du Vin, which was a casual French dining concept.
According to Napa, the success of the local food industry can be attributed to the changing Filipino palate. A lot of restaurants take advantage of this, introducing new concepts to the local dining public, keeping a fresh approach to the Filipino dining experience.
“I think a lot of Filipinos also are becoming more adventurous and it's really a lot of fun. That has a lot to do with everybody traveling so much now. I think that made us more adventurous and for restaurateurs like me, it's allowed me to create restaurants where I can push the envelope on the cuisine. We don't have to hold back anymore and I think that's what makes it so exciting and more and more Filipinos are becoming like that,” she said.
It is also about the overall dining experience. Good food is not the sole reason why people dine out because it's also about good service, good location, value for money, and many more.
“I think the Filipino diner, his mindset has really changed and evolved in the last 10 years, so it's very exciting. I really think that the Filipino today, they view eating and dining as a social experience, not just for mere nourishment or enjoyment. This has also changed the way we design our restaurants. It's not anymore just about the food that's on your plate but everything that's going on around the plate that makes that experience,” Napa said.
But the success of the restaurant starts at the beginning. For The Moment Group, they take this process personally. They don't build restaurants based on trends or market studies. Napa, who is in charge of developing concepts, said that every concept is personal but at the same time, they also think of the customers. Because if it becomes too personal, it may not resonate well with the market.
“I think because when we create concepts, it comes from a place that's very personal and emotional. It doesn't come from a market study or a financial objective. It comes from our history, our nostalgia. It's something that's very close to us like a cuisine that we really love. It's not just an idea and we don't do trend-based things at all,” Napa said.
“Secondly, I try very hard to create restaurants where, even though they are very personal creations, I make sure that we're not creating for ourselves but for the diner. It's important to know what the diner wants or what the diner is interested in. Because if you create something just for you, you may end up creating a restaurant you're the only one who could appreciate. We try to marry our passion with their interests. Maybe that's why our brands are loved and they have a strong following because it appeals to what interests them,” she added.
They likewise refrain from doing soft openings, because they are committed to every concept that are set and ready come opening day.
“If you're going to open and you're going to charge for money, you should be ready. So we try not to do that,” Napa explained.
For the company's future plans, Napa is eyeing an international branch of Manam. They haven't finalized where yet but they are looking at somewhere close to home. The group will also bring a new international brand in the country, which cannot be disclosed as of this time.
And in celebration of their fifth anniversary, all of The Moment Group's restaurant will offer something special from October 16 to 20, Monday to Friday. Each day, one or two brands will be offering a dish priced at only P55.
Each dish would be available the whole day until supplies last.
On Monday, 8Cuts will be offering the quarter pound cheeseburger for P55.
Also on Monday, Bank Bar will offer the martinis and negronis for P55.
On Tuesday, Ooma will sell its California taco maki for the special promo price.
On Wednesday, Manam's small size house crispy sisig can be enjoyed for P55.
On Thursday, Din Tai Fung's five-piece xiao long bao (in photo) and Mecha Uma's camo onigiri are priced at P55.
And on Friday, Linguini Fini's eight-inch cheese pizza...
Phat Pho's small pho bo...
and Mess Hall's chocolate chip cookie will be sold at P55.