I was extremely happy and proud when I found out that Coffee Project was cited as one of the best Instagrammable cafes in the world for 2023. The honor was given by Big 7 Travel, an online platform that provides “current, curated recommendations on “where to go and what to do in every city across the globe.” They have helped millions of travelers around the globe by providing inspirational bucket list destinations, “how to” guides on site, and, a “50 Best” content featured across their social media channels.
When we started Coffee Project we wanted to give consumers not just coffee to drink but an experience. Drinking coffee is not simply sipping on a cup of joe, it should be both a personal and social experience. The pleasure of coffee drinking includes the ambience.
Where you drink your coffee is as important as what kind of coffee beans is in your coffee. This is why we, at AllValue Holdings Corporation, the retail arm of the Villar Group, were extremely honored by this endorsement. To be cited together with the best cafes from Milan, Paris, Melbourne, Bali and New York is definitely a source of pride for us.
This was not always the case. I remember in the 1960s and 1970s there were beautiful restaurants but the focus was never on the ambience. Of course there was no social media back then so the focus was really on the food. In fact, many of the popular restaurants in Manila at the time were not elaborately and elegantly decorated. And I think that was part of the charm.
I remember eating out in restaurants with the barest of decors, just some framed photos on a plain white wall. Sometimes the wooden floors would squeak when you walk. There were other restaurants who really put on fantastic ambience to go with their great menu but it was unlike what we have now when it is almost a requirement that the interior decorations have to be “Instagrammable.”
Today is very different. The tastes of Filipino diners have changed and have become very sophisticated. The advent of media and ease of travel have made it possible for Filipinos to experience the best dining experiences all over the globe. Many travelers have experienced sitting down at a Parisian or Italian cafe and are looking for similar experiences when they go home.
That is not to say that only high-end coffee shops are worthy of our visit. Sometimes a small coffee shop on the side of the road, in the middle of the road is exactly what you need. But there is something to be said about cafes and restaurants that transport you to another place once you have entered. That was our vision with all our Coffee Project branches. I wanted every corner to be beautiful and unique.
But we also knew that putting up a coffee shop is not just about the ambience. At the end of the day, it’s all about the coffee and the food. Having a beautiful cafe or restaurant will probably reel in the crowds at first but it is doubtful if that can be sustained. The quality of food and service is the most important thing. That is the reason why eateries on the streets or in garages turned into makeshift dining areas attract the crowds — it’s the food.
The ambience of a cafe or restaurant provides customers with the full sensory experience. Ambience includes the decor (the colors and the furnitures) but also the service you provide guests as well as playing the appropriate music—somehow I find it weird to have a meeting at a coffee shop playing heavy metal music.
Aside from holding my meetings at coffee shops, I also like to just lounge and watch what’s around me — my surroundings, people walking by, coffee drinkers chatting away like it’s their last time seeing each other. I love that experience. It’s not just Instagrammable, it’s unforgettable.