The Catalan capital disputes the first place in billing with its London counterpart, the first of the group, inaugurated 51 years ago
The Hard Rock Cafe in Barcelona, located in the central Plaza de Catalunya, celebrates its 25th anniversary this November. It is one of the two premises – the second is in Seville – that the company maintains in Spain, after the one from Madrid had to close in the midst of a pandemic. Born in 1997, the one from Barcelona can boast of being at the forefront of the many Hard Rock Cafes that are spread across the European continent. Year after year, the number one position in billing is disputed with the Londoner, who plays with the advantage of being the original, and of having been inaugurated 51 years ago. Catalan is also the center of innovation for the group: it is there that they test what other cafés will later implement.
“We don’t want to be the Americans from the center of Barcelona,” says the European director of sales and marketing, Carlos Casas. The intention of the Hard Rock Cafe in Barcelona is to become one with the city, to be part of it and its history, despite the fact that the vast majority of its customers are tourists. Thus, one of the great obsessions of the team in the city is to attract more and more local public. And they allocate a large part of their investments to this.
In monetary terms, Barcelona has been chaining record billings year after year, since approximately 2012, although the company has not wanted to specify with what figures. However, like all restaurants, the Hard Rock Cafe has also suffered the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Basically because they had to close for several months and, when they were able to reopen, they did so with capacity restrictions. In addition, the fact that the establishment depends so directly on tourism complicated things, since no one came to the city at that time. Since the outbreak of the virus, billing has not been the same.
It is true that it has taken much less effort for a chain as consolidated as this one to withstand the downpour. But it hasn’t been released either. In Barcelona, the company’s flagship in Spain, even this year it is not expected to equal the billing figures registered in 2019. But Casas’s hope is that this situation will be regulated next year.
For their part, the regular Hard Rock customer has a medium-high purchasing power. The company’s merchandising is not available to everyone, and neither is food. A T-shirt with the well-known printed logo costs more than 30 euros, and a classic hamburger, fries and drink menu is around 20. The group works with 90% of 0-kilometre food, which can come from both El Prat de Llobregat and from Granollers or Vic, among other Catalan locations.
In addition, the establishment claims to be an eminently family restaurant, moving away from some preconceived perceptions that have accompanied it since its origin. “We don’t just play hard rock,” Casas tries to deny. “Any music with a positive message and that gives goosebumps plays here,” she says. He is also pleased that some groups that have reached the top of the Spanish music scene took their first steps in coffee: Estopa, Macaco or Sindonie, among them.
more than food
Its sales strategy also involves offering “a complete experience”. The food, which has the main weight of the business, is complemented by the atmosphere, music or children’s activities on weekends. And part of this experience is completed by the waiters, who have to share the brand’s values, such as “not excluding anyone, regardless of ethnicity or religion.”
This brand philosophy is reproduced in the other establishments of the brand. Specifically, in the businesses included under the Hard Rock International logo. These are hotels and entertainment centers, which include casinos. The former have been promoted in Europe. The second, in the United States. Be that as it may, those are the Hard Rock establishments that have grown the most in turnover in recent years.
The project in Tarragona, paralyzed
The Hard Rock International group has been between two eyebrows for more than four years about the launch of the Hard Rock Entertainment World project, a recreational center that would include a casino between Vila-seca and Salou (Tarragona), next to Port Aventura. This project collides head-on with the opposition of environmental groups, who point it out as invasive to the territory.
In addition, the Generalitat de Catalunya has recently issued a preliminary report that, although it does not invalidate the project’s urban master plan, does require modifications to guarantee compliance with some environmental criteria.
Carles Casas, European sales and marketing director of Hard Rock Cafe, regrets that the approval is being complicated, and defends that the negotiations are still alive. But he considers that the workers who live from tourism in that area “have understood that it is something positive for them”, due to the volume of clients that the complex can attract.