Before Ikea, quality furniture was a thing reserved for those who had plenty to spare. So if you didn’t have the financial firepower to get an Eames, you had to settle for something way less.
Now Ikea doesn’t make the best furniture—far from it. Just a few years back, their Malm dressers were literally falling on and killing children because they weren’t sturdy enough to stand on their own. But here’s the thing: people didn’t care. (The dressers are still being sold with some modifications.)
Ikea didn’t set out to be the best furniture makers, but they wanted to be the best for their audience at that price. They cut corners in places that didn’t spread joy, and put all their efforts in creating products that people loved and could afford. Ikea has set a stratospheric bar for well-designed products at their price points.
We’d love to do the same thing for restaurants in Manila.
As customers, we love the obsessive attention-to-detail that upscale urban restaurants bring. We light up when we find hidden coffee shops brimming with charm sitting in narrow alleys. We take a lot of pleasure on the playfulness and intensity of tasting menus. But as much as we enjoy these things, we’re grounded by a sense of pragmatism: how many people can really appreciate and understand experiences executed at this level?
We’re always trying to find ways to heighten the dining experience while keeping costs in control. McDonald’s was able to achieve global success by cutting corners and squeezing efficiencies, but at the cost of wearing a dull grey suit. We want to do what McDonald’s has done, but with a little bit more charm, vibrance, and kindness.
While we consider ourselves a food and hospitality business, we have an unusual number of designers on our team. In fact, almost half of our core team, including our founder, have backgrounds in design. We built our team this way because it makes us challenge the problems in the restaurant business differently as outsiders. We spend a bit more time and thoughtfulness on small details that most people miss and we find ways to elevate the dining experience.
We’re called Lowbrow because we believe that cheap doesn’t need to feel cheap. People deserve both great experiences and fair prices, and we’re here to find a way to give them both.
Thoughtfulness. We take time to think about the smallest of details and find ways to make things better.
Transparency. Everyone in the company has access to everything that’s going on. We don’t withhold information to our team unless there’s a good reason not to.
Hard Truths. Being honest is easy if things are going well, but it’s not in the face of conflict. No matter how difficult, we speak the truth despite the consequences.
Experimentation. The only way to build new things is to try new things. And when we try new things, we’re bound to screw up sooner or later. In Lowbrow, we keep a spirit of experimentation by normalizing the trying alongside the failing.
Self-awareness. To be able see yourself as objectively as everyone does is one of the most valuable abilities to have. Having self-awareness doesn’t just mean knowing what you’re good and bad at, but understanding when to step in or let other people helm the ship.
Respect for the Environment. We only have one world and the Earth is our shared responsibility so we take it seriously whenever possible.
Freedom of Choice. We believe that all people should have the right to choose what they want for their lives. As long as decisions don’t make the lives of others worse, we let people be.
Critical Thinking. In a world full of information, people still fall for lies. We try to look for truths by asking difficult questions and being in a constant state of skepticism and vigilance.
Accountability. We hold everyone in our team responsible for the decisions they make, so we keep the bar really high.
Endurance. Over a long period of time, it’s the people who remain dependable and consistent that become successful. We’re in this for the long run, and while we have our ups and downs, we want to keep on going upward.
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