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Wild for K-cafe



South Korea’s Zoo Coffee opens biggest branch in Manila

If you believe the impact of Korean culture is all about K-dramas and K-pop, think again. Their food has been in the Philippine dining scene for a while now, with kimchi, bibimbap and samgyupsal taking us by storm. Seoul, its capital city, also has an overflowing selection of cafes serving different kinds of pastries, and of course, good cups of coffee.

Themed cafes are wildly popular in Seoul. From the Sherlock Holmes-inspired 221 B Café to the infamous Ddo-Ong Café (poop café) enters another crowd favorite, the Zoo Coffee.

With its playful concept, Zoo Coffee instantly became a tourist destination because of its signature interior design and huggable stuffed animals.

The café was founded in 2009 by Kim Kun Woo. Its flagship stores can still be found at Nonhyeun-dong, Sangam-dong and Myeongdong. Far from the usual Instagram bait settings, the café went for an unexpected style wherein they infused two cultures in creating a cozy and relaxing ambiance.

Zoo Café was brought to the Philippines by the family of Katrina Balonan two years ago. The themed café first opened in Alphaland Makati Place before launching another branch in SM Megamall. Looking back on a family trip in 2013 helped Balonan decide to open another branch at Ayala Malls Vertis North.

“One of the reasons why we decided to open here in Ayala Vertis North is the fact that this area is anchored to the entrance of Korea town. Hence, we pride ourselves in bringing the Korean vibe or concept here in the Philippine market. Another is that we believe that being here in Ayala Vertis North is also a good strategy to introduce ourselves to our customers living here in Quezon City,” Balonan said.

Knowing the Filipinos’ enthusiasm for Korean culture was an impetus for them to bring in the concept here.

“We are bringing a different kind of coffee experience to those who want to relax from the hustle and bustle of life in Manila,” she shared.

Balonan attested that she wanted the Filipino market to enjoy a relaxing space where they are more than welcome to eat and relax far away from home.

“Zoo Coffee is actually doing great in terms of capturing the interest of Filipinos and bringing a whole new coffee experience to the market. For our company, aside from serving quality coffee and food to our customers, we want to give them a home to escape from the stress of everyday life, unwinding in this type of cozy environment,” she added.

Aside from Zoo Coffee’s best-selling waffles, bingsu and the popular ‘I’m Korean’ menu, they developed a new menu in partnership with restaurant app Booky. Included on the new menu are the Churro Waffle and Oreo Waffle that will surely delight the local crowd..

“A lot of our customers love our waffles so we decided to come up with a new set of waffle flavors. For the price of P140, customers can have two pieces of Churro or Oreo waffle. It’s a buy one, get one promo in partnership with Booky as a way of celebrating the opening of our third branch,” Balonan explained.

She further mentioned during the opening of said branch that the growing number of Korean culture fanatics in the country has become one of their target markets. She happily expressed, “That is actually something we’re looking forward to, the fans. Since Zoo Coffee is being featured in K-dramas, fans were able to say ‘Oh My God I’m finally here in this scene just like that show I’ve seen.’ That is also something that we want to happen, too.”

In terms of expansion plans, Balonan said they are planning to put up two more branches this year along with the establishment of their Zoo Coffee barista academy, a place where one can train to create quality food and drinks.

She said, “Yes, we are currently expanding to other cities as we are discussing with different developers to accommodate our brand. We do see great potential to go to the South and as of the moment we are working our logistics and supply chain to make sure that we can support our future stores in that area.”

Zoo Coffee has expanded its business venture in Asia with stores in China, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia.