Food

The Moment Group's Big Tip on Becoming the Next Restaurant Sensation

Abba Napa says you don't have to sell your soul.
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It's become their unofficial catchphrase: The Moment Group is "living in the moment"; The Moment Group is "having a moment." How one defines a moment is subject, but for this set of prolific restaurateurs, it's stretched for five yearswithout any hint of slowing down. And at a time when restaurants pretty much come and go, that's impressive. 

It could be timing. When The Moment Group opened their first project, Cue Modern Barbecue (currently enjoying a long sabbatical), the restaurant scene was just about to explode. It not only introduced diners to a new barbecue experience (you know, the kind not served in wooden skewers), but it also established a trio of enterprising and hungry businessmen and women as serious ones-to-watch in the industry.

That was in 2012. Through the years, together, Abba Napa, Jon Syjuco, and Eliza Antonino gave diners new reasons to feel excited about old favorites like burgers (8 Cuts), Filipino food (Manam), pasta (Linguini Fini), Taiwanese cuisine (Din Tai Fung) and carefully initiated Manila to more conceptual experiences like The Test Kitchen, The Mess Hall, Bank Bar, and Mecha Uma. If they arrived when the dining landscape was just starting to ripple, then they dropped in with enough of a splash to generate a wave.

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Abba says that when it comes to deciding what to do next, whether it's a new concept or another branch, it all boils down to one thing: gut feeling. 

I know I should say market studies or financial planning, and yes, that is important. But before even considering to spend time to do studies and planning, your gut has to first tell you if it is worth exploring to begin with,” she explains. To The Moment Group, developing restaurants is personal, hence, it’s important to be in tune to what drives and inspires them. “We’ve never been able to create anything [that was rooted in] a market study or a financial objective or that started from a purely analytical approach,” she adds.

It's a "technique" that they've stayed true to despite the adjustments since the beginning. “Operating in the first years revolved around having the mindset of us working on a “school project”,” described Abba.

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Eventually, their small personnel grew to a 1000-member company. “In those early stages the team was much smaller and it was much easier to have face-to-face and frequent interactions with every single person to ensure everyone understood and believed in the dream and the vision.” Now, they've accepted that miscommunication is envitable. “The group has had to evolve into more of an organization and not just a mere outfit of people trying to live out a dream,” says Abba. They needed to find a balance between a sense of professionalism and that personal gut feeling that they bank on.

“Our role now has had to evolve into becoming strong leaders (trying to) as much as it is to continue to be dreamers and to stay on pulse and plugged into what is going on around us,” she reveals.

But, at the end of the day, what The Moment Group always comes back to is the diner, what the diner is looking for now, in the proverbial moment.

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“People want to eat,” Abba shares. “Even if there are one too many restaurants around one day, the point is to be the choice that people want.” She says that we live in a world of "choice paralysis," which makes it all the more important to be attuned to the likes and dislikes of the consumerpreferences that will keep changing.

“We believe that when you put your consumer at the heart of the creation process, before yourself, you usually end up creating something that is relevant,” she explains. “You can achieve it without selling your soul, too,” she jokes.

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Maia Romulo Puyat
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