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The Restobar Business

Palitos Music Bar Angeles City

One of the most popular businesses started by many expats is a small bar and restaurant, usually targeting foreigners. The main focus is to provide a place for other foreigners to meet and hang out. Most of these types of establishments aim to provide simple and affordable western style foods. Sometimes providing food is very secondary to the business.

The Filipino Restobar

Restobar is a Filipino format for what is basically a bar that offers drinks, food and sometimes some form or entertainment. The food is often just simple snacks and popular local dishes as Filipinos like their “Pulutan” which is the Filipino word for the food to accompany a drinking session.

The Expat Restobar

Very few expats call their establishment a restobar but regardless of what they chooses to call it, the format is very similar. The format is not uniquely Filipino. The Irish pub is a very similar concept and there are many other examples around the world. Regardless of whatever an expat chooses to call their establishment, Filipinos and even some expats will think of it, and refer to it as a Restobar.

The Sports Bar

With the addition of TV showing live sports and some sporting related décor it can also be called a “sportsbar”. Sports bars can be found all around the Philippines but are most often located in tourist area.

Music Bar

This is a very popular format with the Filipino restobar but there are also a few expats that have opened places themed on music and offering live music. Palitos in Angeles city was created by a Swiss German with a love for music. The bar is decorated with music memorabilia from the 60s 70s and 80s. He has a huge collection of music and is more than happy to play your request. He also provides great European style food.

The Resort Annex

The restobar format is often used for restaurant annex to another establishment such as a resort.

Karaoke Bar

This is basically a restorbar with the addition of a karaoke machine. This is not a popular format with expats as most do not like karaoke. I have none the less seen a few expat run establishments with Karaoke machines. This is often in the province where there is not enough foreign customers and the bar need to cater to locals.

It is common for Karaoke bars to employ a lot of waitresses and some provide prostitution – see Restobar with G.R.O.

Restobar with G.R.O.

Some establishment, both Filipino and expat run provide GROs (Guest Relations Officer) which is synonymous with prostitution, but it will surprise many to learn that a lot of these establishments do not actually offer prostitution. The girls are their to serve the customers and encourage them to buy more drink including special ladies drinks at a much higher cost.

That some establishments do provide prostitution in the form of paying a barfine to the establishment to allow the girl to leave before the end of her shift is not denied. Some other establishments employ G.R.O.s that engage in prostitution but do so by making a private arrangement with the guest outside of the establishment.

My advise to any expat is not to touch a business that has even a hint of involvement with prostitution.

The Restobar Business

The dream of running a small restobar is very much a retirement dream. Those contemplating it do not aspire to build it into a big business and run a chain around the Philippines. They desire to run a place where they too can relax and chat with other expats. You will never get rich running such a place but you can make a decent living if you do it right.

expat bars in Philippines
Inside Palitos Music Bar in Angeles City

About the Author

I have been visiting the Philippines for the past 30 years and lived here full time for the past 10 years. I have travelled extensively around the Philippines and lived in many locations. I was married to a Filipina for over 20 years and been with my current girl friend for 8 years. I have also operated businesses in the Philippines including a Dance and Fitness Studio, Restaurant, Family karaoke and disco. My background is IT and my real interest is in online marketing and outsourcing and these are the areas I currently focus on. I have made heaps of mistakes along the way and I have always enjoyed helping others and passing on my experience so that they might avoid making many of the same mistakes. - Chris Bennetts
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