Georgina: To begin with, we didn’t feel like there were enough casual brunch places in Manila. That was the thing that really inspired us, because we love travelling and when we do our day mainly revolves around one thing: where do we have brunch?
Martine: Specifically for me, because I grew up here in LA, brunch was something that I looked forward to every weekend. Brunch for me is about the experience. It’s about creating memories over great food with people that you love. Food is so experiential and subjective. It’s such an emotional experience, which was why we wanted to use it to bring the Sunnies brand to life in different way. We wanted to create a space that really embodied the brand in a way that people could experience and enjoy every day, every meal.
G: Some people thought it was weird. They couldn’t understand the jump that we made, but it was so funny because it was always so straightforward and natural in our heads. To us it was, like, ‘Duh, a café,’ but to everyone else it was like, ‘But you sell sunglasses…’ Sunnies was always a lifestyle brand. We never thought of it as just sunglasses. We wanted to create a tangible hub of the Sunnies culture through each Sunnies Café. We want each café to feel distinct from one another, but still on-brand. It’s a challenge.
M: But a fun challenge! For us, we didn’t want to just have Sunnies Café be this franchise that we keep ripping-off and duplicating. We want each space to feel special and unique and designed for that specific location. In BGC it’s all high ceilings and really airy, but in our new Megamall branch, for example, there’s no natural light, so we really wanted to play around with a more minimal, clean design and really maximize that space.
G: We want the Insta-hoes to visit every branch.
M: Basically! We want people to have a new profile photo with every branch.
G: I feel like a lot of people were pleasantly surprised with the food, too, because they thought that being Sunnies, we might just focus on the interiors and the aesthetic and the hype, but I like to think that we focused just as much on the menu.
M: We wanted the menu to be a good mix of comfort foods that we loved and recreated. Brunches that we’ve tried everywhere from LA to Melbourne to Tokyo.
G: We’ve never paraded as chefs. We just love good food. So it’s just taking everything that we love from around the world and making it our perfect little hub. It’s also really important for us to still keep things at a price point that’s accessible.
M: We didn’t want it to be somewhere that you only go for a special occasion.
G: And I think that that really ties in with the Sunnies brand. We never wanted to create something just for one demographic. We always want anything Sunnies-related to be inclusive. Like, I want the young millennial to tell their lola, “Let’s eat at Sunnies Café” and she’s cool with it because she enjoys the food. The lola might not understand why there are so many people standing on the couches taking photos of tacos, but she gets that the food tastes good.
M: Menu-wise, a lot of the dishes have so many eggs in them because I love eggs. I eat eggs every day. I attribute eggs to everything good in my life… I think they’re the perfect nutrient-dense meal encapsulated in these little things. My perfect brunch will always have an egg somewhere in the mix.
G: I always find a way to have something sweet for brunch, too. It’s like having an alcoholic drink. I’m like “It’s 11am—is it okay if I get a milkshake now?” We weren’t sure how it was going to click with the Filipino crowd, but every Insta-post has a milkshake, and—this might make us sounds super lame—but we check every hashtag! It’s embarrassing, but that’s how we see which dishes people are feeling. It’s how we stay in touch with our customers.
M: I always said food is so emotional because when you go out to eat you’re at a very vulnerable state. If you give someone the best meal of their life they will forever have this great, personal connection with your brand, but if you serve them a meal that they’re not blown away by, it’s just as damaging. That was a huge risk for us.
G: Do we hate ourselves?
M: It’s funny because now when people tell me, ‘You know, I’m thinking of opening a Café…’, I’m, like, don’t. Do not do it!
G: On a positive note, to see people enjoy it gives us a different sense of fulfillment. It’s almost more fulfilling than a retail store.
M: One of our favorite things to do is just sitting at the café and people watching and talking to them. Everybody has a different taste palate and raves about something else, and it’s really exciting because it’s like, wow, we’ve seen that dish from it’s infancy, from taste-testing thirty different options of it to picking the one that works, and now someone is sharing how much they love it. Even the space itself, seeing it from its dusty, rubbly mess to what it is right now is crazy.
G: It’s longer than being pregnant. It took way longer than creating a life. It took us 18 months for us to get our whole Sunnies Café act together—but I think the waiting was important. We could have opened a lot quicker, but because we were all so scared and excited, and it just meant so much to us, we wanted to make sure we got everything right. And hopefully with this new branch, we did.
Photography by Ralph Mendoza
SUNNIES CAFE IS OPEN FROM 11AM TO 11PM AND IS LOCATED AT 2/F MEGAMALL IN MANDALUYONG CITY.