'I think for Hard Rock, the brand itself speaks a lot' - Business 360 Business 360

'I think for Hard Rock, the brand itself speaks a lot'

Hard Rock Café, a global chain of theme restaurants, was recently launched in Kathmandu at Sherpa Mall, Durbar Marg. Along with memorabilia from some of the music industry’s biggest names, namely Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Metallica, the Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson, Hard Rock Cafe Kathmandu features a US-inspired menu and hand-crafted cocktails.

Situated on the first and top floors of the building, the restaurant can take upto 260 covers indoors as well as on an outdoor terrace looking over the roofs of Durbar Marg. The highlights of the menu are the burgers for which Hard Rock Cafe is famous. For those keen to snap up a memento of their visit, there is a Hard Rock – Rock Shop selling themed merchandise.

Hard Rock Cafe Kathmandu has plans to initially promote local musical talent with live music seven nights a week and an acoustic brunch every Saturday from 1 pm to 3 pm. It opens at 11:30 am daily and remains open till 2 am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The cafe is scheduled to close at midnight from Sunday to Wednesday. The Hard Rock – Rock Shop opens from 10 am to 11 pm every day.

During the launch of the Hard Rock Cafe Kathmandu, Abhishek Chitrakar of Business 360, got the opportunity to speak to Malcolm Chao, Area Vice President Franchise Cafe, Asia Pacific Region, Hard Rock. Excerpts:

Is there any particular reason for this foray into Nepal?

We believe it is the right time to come to Nepal. We have seen that there has been a rise in the number of middle-class people in Nepal and the country too has been witnessing an increase in international tourist arrivals over the years. So, there are boundless opportunities for us in Nepal. Most importantly, we see the need of the people for a lifestyle international brand. I had been speaking with Sanjib Tuladhar, Managing Director of Hard Rock Cafe Kathmandu, since January 2020 to open the cafe. I think the ‘Hard Rock’ brand speaks for itself as an internationally recognised brand for the past 50 years and we think Nepal’s market is right for it.

How does Hard Rock Café stand out from among the various restaurants and cafes across the world?

One of the most important aspects of Hard Rock Cafe is that we are not just a restaurant but a lifestyle brand and what we want to do is put together the dining experience and the lifestyle, the band and everything together. The stage provides an opportunity for aspiring artistes and musicians in Nepal to play on stage and be identified. And from the food perspective, we make sure that the quality of the food is at its best. The combination of food, beverage and entertainment provides a very holistic experience to customers.

If you look at other international chains, they are usually merely restaurants. They don’t have the entertainment part and they don’t have the retail part. Although, some of them may have a retail part, it’s never as strong as Hard Rock’s retail. One, we are different in terms of retail and secondly, we are different in terms of the entertainment and the music part.

How do you view the potential here?

I think what we do best is that we provide a holistic experience, an amazing experience for everybody that comes in here. It is an international brand which has been around for five decades, and competition will always be there, whether it be in Nepal or any other country where we have our franchises. I think for Hard Rock, the brand itself speaks a lot. We don’t sell too much on the brand by itself. People know what they’re going to get when they walk in through our door. I think that’s the strong part of our brand. And when you can provide quality service, there is no stopping.

Is there any plan of customising the menu according to the local palette?

I believe that localisation is always a very tricky point. If I start to sell the dishes that are locally available then people will start to compare and say why am I paying so much for a local dish. So first of all, we want to start by bringing the core menu of Hard Rock to let the people enjoy something which they’ve never enjoyed. Then, definitely we’ll look at some favourite local dishes and see how we can incorporate them as local dish specials.

People in Nepal are somewhat price conscious, have you considered this aspect?

Our pricing is definitely a little bit more premium. Talking about the premium part, I believe it will not affect the people who are coming here. The reason being because people always want to look for value for money. You can always get cheaper things but what we want to pursue is quality things. We don’t use frozen chicken and the burger buns are prepared fresh every single day. We make sure we get the grapes from Denmark, probably Danish grapes and things like tortillas are home-made. Although the prices are on the premium side, once you consume our food then the value for money is there. So, I think we can’t really go on a price war with others. Let the guests judge the value of it and the amount they pay for their meals.

Will you be focusing on Kathmandu only or are there plans to expand to other cities?

We definitely will extend the Hard Rock Cafe in other parts of Nepal. In fact, we are looking at Pokhara first. But most importantly, what we want to do is first focus on trying to make a name for Hard Rock in Kathmandu before we start looking at other cities. I think Kathmandu is a key place to be for the time being. I don’t foresee opening five or six outlets in Nepal initially. May be two to three for the time being. I’ll work closely with Tuladhar to make sure that the time is right and also we want to make sure that it is economically viable for him to invest the money in opening up the cafe in other places as well. We are here to make sure that we build one good one and we bring the best of our experience in that good one.

What can customers expect at Hard Rock in Kathmandu?

I believe that every customer that walks into Hard Rock Cafe will enjoy the same experience they get anywhere else globally in Hard Rock and that is quality food, the great entertainment that they are going to get, and not forgetting the best service in town. And then, they’ll walk out with a very good memory of dining in Hard Rock. Whether it is for your birthday party, or whether it is a proposal to somebody, in Hard Rock Cafe, it will always be a memorable one.

Have you lined up any international performer for the cafe in Nepal?

At the moment, we haven’t reached that stage. Currently, what we want to do is to give the opportunity to local artistes to show off all the capabilities and potential here. The local artistes come first. I think the mixture of international rock music with local music is the key. Then, after that maybe periodically we can bring in an international band or artiste here to perform.

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Abhishek Chitrakar

Abhishek Chitrakar is a writer at Business360. He is also pursuing his bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is mostly interested in entrepreneurship, tech and automobiles.

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