It never fails. That specific dish.
When I meet up with a macho dancer outside of a gay bar, I usually invite him for a meal, like for dinner before he goes to work. For dinner with these less-than-privileged men, I am expecting to foot the bill for the both of us, so I am prepared to spend quite a sum for our meal. And as with dates, I always ask him beforehand where he wants to eat.
Anywhere. Their standard reply.
After a few more questions to squeeze out where they really want to eat, after some minutes of walking around the mall or driving around the city, they reply with a specific place in mind.
No, seriously, I tell my date. I am prepared to spend some money.
Chowking, he does insist.
Even when I present him options. There's Italianni's at the side, a Jollibee store, a Japanese restaurant, and an American casual diner. Or even when I am driving him to his bar before work, where I can park my car at any establishment. Or even in the mall, where he can choose from any restaurant in that whole building.
Whoever macho dancer or hosto I am with, they say Chowking. Always. Well, okay, let me admit, it's just like 5 or 6 out of the ten times, that particular Chinese-style mass fastfood is their choice, when asked what they want. The others were the other Filipino fast food chains like Jollibee or Mang Inasal, or the nearby local Filipino mini-restaurant like Binalot or Aristocrat (no, not karinderya).
As to why they prefer Chowking and not a more expensive place to go to, even if they know I am paying, I am not sure if it's hiya, as not for me to spend a lot for them. It can also be intimidation factor, with going inside a fancy expensive place -- not knowing what to get because they don' understand the names of the dishes, which of the items on the picture tastes good, how to act or eat appropriately inside. There's also less risk involved with food that is familiar, that is ordered before, that one is assured of a good meal especially if it's free. Maybe they don't want to waste good money for a meal they aren't assured if it will taste good (especially for the more exotic Japanese cuisine).
Fine, so then we go inside.
As we're waiting in line and look at the lighted menu on top of the cash registry, I ask him which dish he'd like to get. The macho dancer with me at first looks puzzled what to get, as if he's having a hard time choosing. But then, after asking again what he wants, he orders this:
Yes, it's the Chowking Chicken Lauriat. The value / combo meal.
Now that's what all of them 100% order. Even when I was with two MDs at one point, both of them had the same order. It even came to a point when I went out with some MD for the first time, and I didn't ask anymore what he'd get. After telling the cashier our order, he replied behind me, "How did you know that I'd get that?"
When I noticed that the same dish gets ordered by various men, date after date, I asked one of them why that specific dish.
"It's complete. It has chicken and rice, then pansit noodles, which is filling to the stomach, a pair of dumplings, then some Chicharap crisps, and a fried dessert," he said. Value-for-money, get more in offerings and in variety, obviously. Tummy-filling, also known as "busog" factor. He even said that this value meal offers more than the two-piece chicken of Jollibee, because of the added noodles, crisps, and dessert.
Calling the Chowking marketers out there! Insight here! You can get a lot just by asking your target market. And I am not saying that they should target macho dancers only (hmmm... but a TV ad with half-naked dancing men isn't a bad idea).
From then on, I always initiate where to eat. It's been upgraded already to Pancake House, where I'd like him to try what a crisp golden brown waffle tastes like, or to North Park, where I'd like him to taste what a better lauriat selection is. Honestly, good as it is, sawa na ako sa Chicharap.
Learn more: Lessons from Gay Bars in Manila