In Taguig City, Uptown Mall’s “new normal” dining option features outdoor areas redesigned to resemble pocket parks. Uptown Food Hall has indoor tables, but due to the ever-changing quarantine classifications, the mall has created an extended alfresco area on the fourth floor complete with plants, wooden picnic tables, benches, fairy lights and chimes! The welcoming space gives diners the much missed music-festival vibe—without the crowd.
The pretty alfresco patio has hundreds of tables set apart, great for cozy dining despite the humidity, noted Megaworld Lifestyle Malls head Graham Coates.
“We took inspiration from outdoor parks,” Coates said. “Our goal is to make alfresco dining as comfortable as indoor dining.”
Uptown’s alfresco dining follows mall hours, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and the mandatory 50-percent diagonal-seating capacity. Coates, in an email interview, said Megaworld made use of landscaping in creating the dedicated Uptown dining “park.”
“We focused on greenery, and having a variety of flowering plants, shrubs and small trees on the patio, as it has been proven that trees and plants can reduce urban heat,” he said.
Scan to Dine
Scan to Dine is a unique feature of Uptown Food Hall. It allows customers to order from different merchants by scanning a QR code. No lines, just food delivered to a table, and this writer tested it out for brunch (to avoid cooler but busier sunset hours). The first step was to choose a numbered table. Once seated, I scanned the QR code on the table that brought me to alfrescoatuptown.ph, the microsite that showed 18 Food Hall merchants.Scan to Dine was created so diners won’t have to line up and wait, giving them time to chill outdoors, and preventing crowding in the Food Hall.
On the site, I clicked on the logo of Bahn Mi Kitchen and chose “I want a pickup.” The Bahn Mi Kitchen menu was shown and I selected two sandwiches—Samgyupsal Kimchi with gochujang pork barbecue, mayo, pâté and cilantro, and Cheesy Baked Kani with bonito flakes, cucumber and carrots.
It was like online shopping; I added to cart and proceeded to checkout. The system asked for my mobile number and sent a security code. I reviewed my order, typed my instructions (no plastic cutlery) and table number, and chose cash as payment method (online payment is not yet available).
I didn’t have to download an app, but the data reception in the mall’s fourth floor was a bit wonky and the microsite lagged. My order arrived after a while, and I proceeded to order the forever favorite Potato Corner cheese fries, Pepper Lunch beef rice, Kape Sur iced coffee and intriguing Avocadoria desserts such as the avocado inipit and avocado keto ice cream. There was no group checkout; it was one checkout per establishment.
The website did not indicate unavailable items, of which there was quite a number. I was informed there was no beef in Pepper Lunch, no milk tea in Chatime, no Cheesy Pinatubo in Jamaican Pattie, no whipped cream so no cold Dark Choco Mocha from Kape Sur, among other items.
Well, to be fair, I was there during a stricter quarantine when indoor dining wasn’t even allowed and many of the food shops were closed. It was still a pleasant, semihealthy brunch, and the enjoyable part was actually going out and lounging on the patio.
Coates said the Scan to Dine experience is continuously being improved. GCash and PayMaya payment will be available soon, as well as better variety and availability of food choices.
Other things that can be improved: user interface, ease of use and correction of misspelled brand names on the website, options for group checkout, order cancellation and modification.
It was a breezy brunch, but what if it rains?
“Canopies that serve as shades and parasols are in place to protect our customers from both the heat and the rain, which also ensures that the alfresco areas can still be used even during the wet season,” Coates said.
Megaworld Lifestyle Mall, after all, had plenty of practice before the pandemic with the popular 24/7 alfresco dining area at Eastwood City in Quezon City.
Uptown Mall’s alfresco diners were mostly mall goers, employees and residents of nearby Megaworld properties looking for a place to relax in the city. Dining safely and responsibly can be done at the tropical patio with lush greens—a quick escape for a shared meal or a cold drink. —BY IRENE C. PEREZ