Restaurants from Pirata Group are a must-try in Hong Kong. You might meet Retail in Asia‘s staff often, and we had to pick our favorite spots, that would probably be TokyoLima and TMK. But we visited them all and we decided to understand more about consumer preferences across the group.
Valentine’s Day is coming soon! We met Manuel Palacio, the co-founder of Pirata Group to know more about how people celebrate love in town.
RiA: How is Pirata Group evolving throughout the year to meet consumers’ demands?
Manuel: As the year ended with one challenge and opened with another new one, we believe now, more than ever, in value proposition as a key instrument for our guest experience. Hong Kong, a city that is so well educated and demanding, still needs to be fed and guests are not willing to compromise on quality. While the scene has changed considerably in terms of habits over the past seven months, we firmly believe that people still need to eat good food and have a great time. It is difficult because we are all suffering through these pains, but they are necessary for the long term gain of our loved Hong Kong.
The stays are shorter in restaurants as transportation has been affected and people dine more locally. We have seen an increase in the most ‘’local/community’’ restaurants, and a decrease in destination restaurants as people value convenience. Building restaurants for communities as well as offering good value and good pricing for everyday meals are essential. We might not be in the best mood for celebrations with all that is happening but certainly we still need to have a great experience and a good meal at everyday prices. At the moment for us, our casual restaurants make the most sense.
RiA: What is the split between local and expats among your customers in Hong Kong?
Manuel: The split is very seasonal but we believe a good average is 70% local and 30% expats. Having Italians visiting Italian restaurants or Spanish in Spanish restaurants is a great validation for any restaurant but at the end of the day, we build restaurants for the everyday people.
We have found that our restaurants are most successful when they are supported by the local community. When a new restaurant launches, the expat community is very supportive and we have many repeating guests, however, we have found that we get tired easily and excited by new things. Locals tend to be more loyal when you deliver a product that they like and it makes business more predictable. I have found that it is the same in Spain as it is here in this sense.
Some of our concepts in the past, although well supported by the expat community, could not thrive under this environment without support from locals.
RiA: As Valentine’s Day is coming up, based on the experience from the previous year, what can you forecast?
Manuel: We foresee a lot of last minute bookings, similar to what we saw during Christmas. In a city where everything changes by the minute, more and more people are not making plans far in advance until they have the latest information. We believe this year, Valentine’s celebrations at casual restaurants will be more popular as many may opt for a bigger and more extravagant celebration later on.
RiA: As you have different concepts, which ones you have seen being popular for dating and why?
Manuel: To be honest, it is a very mixed bag for us. We would say that mid-range restaurants are most popular amongst people who are dating. When you are getting to know each other in a relationship, you want to visit a place that is good enough to impress but not bad on the pocket. For us, the most popular destinations are: The Optimist for Happy Hour and a casual drink or quick bite on a first date (Tinder friendly), Pici for a more casual meal because it is easy and you can eat in 45 minutes if things do not go well or you can stay for 2 hours if things go well, and Honjo when people want to impress and bring someone to a new modern place.
RiA: Any news that could be shared for upcoming openings?
Manuel: For the time being, we are all working relentlessly on “The Pizza Project,’” which we opened a little more than ten days ago. It is possibly one of the most difficult concepts so far as the expectations that people have for pizza are always very high and everyone has a favourite style of pizza, making it very difficult to please all of our guests.
SEE ALSO : EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Pirata Group
As always, we have a few ideas lined up but at the moment we have nothing under construction. We will wait for Quarter 3 of this year to unveil new ideas.