Much has been said about the life cycle of restaurants; mostly how, within a span of a few months, they close shop. Openings then tend to be treated by its proprietors with restrained optimism.

Obviously the stakes are generally higher for new concepts, but if there’s one specific factor that could account for the fraught nature of openings, it’s the fact that they serve as this definitive, irreversible answer to a crucial question many restaurateurs tend to overlook; the question being, did they invest in the right market segment? 

Getting this right requires a good amount of foresight and, given the surge of new food neighborhoods and the recent diversification in the traditional restaurant model (i.e., the rise of pop-ups, ghost restaurants, co-working spaces, and small output-fast return concepts), investing in the right segment becomes much harder to pull off. 

On the other hand, these changes can be viewed with a bit more optimism. New business formats with more specialized features and targets can encourage new restaurateurs to be as specific and clear as possible with their identities, and by extension, the market segment they invest in. Not to mention, a commitment to clarity is always a good thing, especially since the industry has always suffered from a lack of originality and outright copying.  

With these in mind, here are nine restaurant openings to watch out for this year. They are mostly foreign brands brought in by some of the country’s major restaurant groups, but there are also a few local concepts spearheaded by esteemed chefs. How these restaurants will fare in the first few months in operation should be good points of reference for when you open your own. Otherwise, this could just be a good reference for new ideas or for where to eat next.

Little Caesars

This American pizza chain—currently the third largest in the world—won over the Manila crowd back in the ‘90s with their Hot-N-Ready buy one, take one pizzas before eventually closing shop as new concepts entered the pizza chain market. Though no specific opening date has been given, it’s expected to open sometime this month at the ground floor of Metrosquare Building on Alhambra street in Ermita, Manila.

Shake Shack

This critically-acclaimed New York-based burger stand is arguably one of the most anticipated restaurant openings in Manila. Since it started out as a lone hotdog cart inside Madison Square Park in 2001, Shake Shack is currently one of the fastest growing food chains in the world, operating in more than 200 locations locally and internationally.

The launch of its first Philippine location (set to happen in the first quarter of 2019) is done in partnership with SSI Group, the country’s largest luxury retailer. The Manila menu will feature some of Shake Shack’s signature items such as ShackBurger®, Shack-cago Dog®, classic crinkle cut fries, wine, and frozen custard ice cream.

Panda Express

Panda Express, the largest American-owned Chinese food chain, is another famous name in fast food that is set to open in Manila. This expansion is brought on by Jollibee Food Corporation (JFC)’s recently established 50-50 joint venture with Panda Restaurant Group Inc.

The partnership is part of JFC’s efforts to expand and diversify its food retailing portfolio as well as to become the first Filipino food corporation to introduce American Chinese food to the local market. Five locations will be launched around Metro Manila, and will feature some of Panda Express’ bestselling items such as orange chicken.

Elephant Grounds

The Standard Group (Yabu, Ippudo, and Mighty Quinn’s) will be bringing this Hong Kong-based micro-roaster and cafe to Bonifacio Global City. No opening date has been specified, but the Standard Group’s Mike Concepcion said in an interview last December that it might be sometime in February.

Best known for its ice cream sandwiches and garden-inspired interiors, Elephant Grounds is a considerably young and under-the-radar concept, having just opened its first branch in 2013.

Made Nice Supper Club

After finding success with its first branch in Legaspi Village in Makati, the Greatful Group’s Jack Flores and Gabbi Ramos-Flores’ New York-inspired restaurant serving Asian-inspired Western food will be opening a new branch in Rockwell. The name Made Nice is a play on American restaurateurs’ Will Guidara and Daniel Humm’s Make It Nice restaurant group.


Other noteworthy openings to look forward to

Charles Paw’s new restaurant

Charles Paw of The Tasteless Group (The Grid Food Market, Hole in the Wall, Scout’s Honor) will be opening a pop-up style restaurant in Rockwell.

Alamat Filipino Pub and Deli

Niño Laus and Kalel Demetrio’s pub in Poblacion will be opening a new branch in BF Homes, Parañaque this coming March.

Osteria Daniele

Later this month, Bistronomia Group (Las Flores, Rambla, BCN by Rambla, and La Lola) will be opening Osteria Daniele in BGC, one of its first two Italian concepts.

Margarita Forés’ new restaurant

This year, the industry veteran is set to add another Italian concept to her growing roster of restaurants. No details as to the concept’s name and launch date have been released, but it will be located in Rockwell.