Reinterpretation of Tiki Culture
Updated 15 Feb 2023
Tiki Bars may not be a new concept to most booze carousers, but how will a 'reinterpreted’ Tiki Bar look like? You may find the answer in The Social Den, a Tiki bar co-founded by Joe Villanueva and Bryson Rivera. The two veterans joined forces to establish this bar which mingles tropical decors, pan-Asian dishes, as well as some other new ideas. Meet Joe, one of the co-founders, and listen to his sharing about the concept behind this bar and how he leverages marketing initiatives to stand out among numerous bars in Central’s Lan Kwai Fong.
“To most people, tiki bars serve exotic tropical cocktails with food cultivated largely from Cantonese cuisine and playing exotica music in loudspeakers,” said Joe. “We would like to reinterpret this tropical drinkery concept, and embody the opulence fit for a tropic escapism with a touch of chinoiserie décor. We welcome socializers, global explorers and drinkers who wish to embark on a beautiful journey with delicious selection of Polynesian – Cantonese dishes inspired and exotic-tropical mixes.”
In The Social Den, most cocktails use variety ingredients that are deep in stories and rich in flavours which are discoverable in local markets, for example, one of the signature drink, “Cantaloupe”, uses Chinese bacon (“Lap Yuk”) as ingredient. “Our cocktails draw to modern drinking customs with unique ingredients explored through contemporary styles and techniques.” They also blend exotic elements that are commonly grown in tropical and subtropical zones where climates are often characterized by hot summers and mild winters, such as longan, mangosteen and jackfruit.
What is the signature drink of The Social Den?
LONGAN – beefeater gin infused dried longan, osmanthus sweet – vermouth, maraschino liqueur, aromatic sea bitters.
CANTALOUPE – ezra brooks bourbon fat washed LAP YUK (Chinese bacon), cantaloupe melon syrup, old fashioned & almond bitters.
JACKFRUIT – premium ming river baijiu, preserved jackfruit, calamansi-ade.
Do you encounter any problems when you start running your own bar? How do you solve the problems?
During COVID situation, it was hard for many people in our F&B industry. We, as a new bar, keep striving for a balance between budgets and the needs of our customers. We had to review our labor cost and adjust our operation workflows efficiencies in order to execute task and still be able to operate during restrictions, for example, to keep our cocktail's consistency and speed, we pre-batched cocktails that had more than 7 ingredients onto 3 step ingredients. Furthermore, it is also important to proactively adopt with the updated market demand and fast-changing consumer preferences, and always looking for ways for improvements.
What marketing activities do you conduct to promote your bar?
We stay social and fresh on the social media platforms to let our existing customers and new target audience know our promotions and highlights. There have been many successful events for various occasions. We also collaborate with different companies and organisations to get expand exposures. Another way to market our bar is through guest bartender programmes to bring unity.
What are the trends of the industry you foresee?
We see that a bar with a kitchen had helped deliver a new modern-day trend and a move towards operational efficiency. We also see an increasing trends of local produce sustainability, self-service systems, and a comeback for classics cocktails.