Companies expand for all kinds of reasons: for growth, for development or for change. But for 1771 Group of Restaurants executive chef and chief operating officer Vicky Pacheco, it’s “to make our lives more difficult.”
She was kidding, of course. But if there’s any truth to it, the difficulty is for good, delicious reasons.
The 1771 Group’s latest restaurant concept, Flatiron, exudes the hip and young vibe of New York City, where the famous building is located. Its main, specialty dish, Flatiron Brisket 6, takes 12 hours in total to cook, with the beef spending six hours in the slow cooker, and another six in the oven.
“After that, we cook it on the griddle. When we cook things on the griddle, there’s a lot of variety, there’s a lot of food we can cook on it,” Pacheco told Entrepreneur.com.ph.
Griddle, also known as flat iron, is the chef’s latest weapon of choice to capture the palette of the more adventurous Filipino diner. The restaurant’s main entrees are cooked on the kitchen equipment, most especially its “lunch-to-go” meals, meant to attract the big workplace market in Uptown Parade at Uptown Bonifacio, where its first branch is located.
“Flatiron is an eclectic, New York-style kind of restaurant,” Pacheco said. “It’s a new American cuisine with Asian and Filipino touches.”
It has everything Uncle Sam will enjoy: burgers, pastas and pizzas. Its main entrees are composed of power-packed protein: steaks and fish fillets. And while most of the 1771 Group’s concepts are on the higher end, it’s the first time the group is offering something for days one only wants some comfort food.
For the last 28 years, Pacheco headed 1771’s brand of taste: there’s the French-Italian Chateau 1771, the casual Café 1771, and then there’s the vibrantly Filipino Sentro 1771.
Unlike its other brands, Flatiron is more casual and upfront, apt for the younger generation of Filipinos who are more than prepared to indulge themselves. In 2014, the Nielsen Shopper Trends Report revealed that 25 percent of Filipinos are now willing to dine out, almost double the number in 2009.
“The diner has become more adventurous and very opinionated. They are also not that loyal,” Pacheco said. “They want to change and change and change. Luckily for us, we have core loyal customers.”
Most of 1771’s market is its first-generation customers back when they started. But the 1771 Group is fully aware of the growing number of food concepts mushrooming around the metro: from hole-in-the-wall spots to the emerging restaurant groups. The Filipino diner’s relationship with food is now all the more hinged on a variety of options which can easily captivate the palette.
So how does a mature company like theirs cope?
“When we find a recipe that’s familiar, we always find a way of doing it better,” Pacheco said. “There will always be people who will want something not canned, something authentic but still familiar.”
And with this familiarity comes the comfort that not only comes with the food, but with the restaurant too.
“Basically, aside from having good food and service, there’s an effort to know them (customers) personally. There’s an effort to listen to their comments.” Pacheco said. “There’s an effort to let them know that we just don’t want [their] money. There should be relationship-building.”