By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Necessity should drive people to do the best they can.
Single-mom Dolores Q. Santiago had to do the best she can to fend for herself and two sons Dean and Giann. She ventured into various kinds of merchandizes until she found the right match for her – the food business.
The mother and two sons are now running three food brands under GSCORP Marketing, Inc. After nurturing the brands and owning it by themselves, the family is now ready to share what could be one of the cheapest but short-term ROI-ensured small franchise concept.
The weakness of the Filipinos for Japanese food, chicken and hotdogs has encouraged the mother and sons to expand their food business from the lone brand Supreme Hotdogs to include Panthree Chicken and Tempura King.
Santiago, who is also President and CEO of Smart Buy Lending & Marketing Corporation that was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) since March 08, 1999, explained that part of the company’s product line was food. With that, she introduced Supreme Hotdogs into the market in 2012.
Because of its outstanding sales, the company was awarded four outlets in SM malls and now is expanding in the metropolis.
The other brand is Japanese snacks tempura, which is making their way into the hearts and stomachs of Pinoys as a familiar treat. With that, the TEMPURA KING has created something very special to satisfy everyone’s tempura craving at very affordable price.
What makes this local tempura exceptionally different are the wide selection of Asian fusion variants that you will surely enjoy. To name a few, Tempura King offers salted egg variant, smoked barbecue, creamy garlic, spicy Korean and a lot more. With Tempura King, there’s always a burst of lusciousness with every tempura bite.
Another brand founded only in 2015 serves to tap the chicken lovers’ market in this country. Panthree Chicken serves the first and the original flavored packed and rich sauce coated chicken bites in the country. What sets it apart is you get to enjoy the crisp layer of flavorful crunchy batter/breading while retaining the juiciness of the chicken inside.
“Our chicken bites are specially marinated and can be paired with our equally savory French fries. But what keeps our customers from coming back for more is our choice of unique and delectable flavors and special sauces that make our chicken bites unique and tasty like no other,” says Santiago.
“Our very affordable prices, convenient snacking and variety of choices make us the go-to quick fix for your chicken bites craving.”
FOOD ON THE GO
Santiago explained that the reason she chose food on-the-go business was because this is the trend not just for the youth, but even for the adults and professionals. Lifestyle has changed a lot in the way people eat, what to eat and where to eat on their own convenience while on the go.
So far, they have eight all company-owned outlets. There are two Panthree Chicken, three Tempura King and three Supreme Hotdogs. The franchise concepts for these three have just been launched in March this year by Francorp Philippines during the Franchise Asia Conference & Expo by the Philippine Franchise Association.
Supreme Hotdogs is the pioneering food business initiated by Santiago that she established 10 years ago. The next two projects have been the initiatives of her two sons. Santiago gave her sons half a million-peso capital for each business on the commitment that they hit the monthly sales quota otherwise they cannot go to the next step, which is franchising.
Panthree, which was born four years ago is actually under direct management of son Giann while Tempura started just three years by son Dean.
“It is a small family business,” says Santiago as she tags along her two sons, who has imbibed the mom’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Santiago loves the food business because it is good in terms of returns. There are unique challenges though in a food business, she said, including problems about the store crew, inventory, pilferage, and waste.
“So, an owner really has to physically spot check to discover whatever hanky panky. I personally count the stocks, drawers and shelves,” says Santiago.
Santiago also hired a chef to develop the recipe but they have managers who have been trained in a classroom setting so they have product knowledge.
Santiago, who studied law at San Sebastian College of Law and San Beda College of Law but did not take the bar, has been an entrepreneur since her childhood days. She used to run a footwear kiosk at the Harrison Plaza and other products until she shifted to Supreme Hotdogs and was accepted as an SM locator. The single mom, who had to work double time to provide for her two kids, even managed to grow her lending company as well.
Now, the three food concepts are becoming more exciting because of the good chance in franchising with the help of Francorp Philippines, the country’s franchise authority.
Franchising is one way to expand the business but this is also her way of sharing a profitable business to qualified entrepreneurs a good opportunity of managing their respective businesses and consequently enjoy the fruits of their hardwork and dedication through a profitable business income.
“At first, I was hesitant on the inquiries that we received until such time that we became confident to go into franchising,” says Santiago. Since its launch in March, they are now in discussions with franchises for branches in other areas.
“What we’re offering is quality street foods at very affordable price,” says Santiago adding that their concepts are not long shot, the kind of food that Filipinos love but they are doing it with a twist with new variants and flavors that suit the Filipino taste.
For its hotdogs, they offer toppings, taco dogs, and everything on it. Most of all, their products are very affordable with the most expensive sausage at only P65. All Filipinos love hotdogs, not just the kids. It also cuts across all market segments from the masses to the high-end.
“We have contract manufacturing for our hotdogs to ensure we got the local taste right,” says Santiago.
For the Panthree Chicken, the youngest son Giann is a food lover who suggested the idea of chicken bites. Chicken is good because it has a very good margin. Giann said they are also selling it for as low as P38. People love their flavored chicken because it is filling.
Dean, the big brother, spotted the concept for his Tempura King when the three of them were vacationing in Japan. They also chose their supplier from Negros to ensure they only get fresh shrimp supply because shrimp loses its sweetness when frozen for long.
“We found out that one can eat shrimp even on the go. You can bring it anytime, anywhere even when you commute,” says Dean. They are selling it for only P58 for three pieces.
“The boys do the computation, they are very hands on, they visit the stores on their own to check on sales and inventory. They also go with me to Divisoria to scout for supplies,” adds the proud mom.
Now, they have 10,000 FB followers, indicating many people love their food as they get very good compliments.
When it comes to franchising, Santiago said that the most important factor to consider is location. Most ideal location is in the malls, schools, and terminal. The franchise package per concept is just P300,000, inclusive of P100,000 franchise fee, cart and signages.
The franchise package is actually very affordable. “We cannot go higher than that because we also want our franchises to benefit, but we hope to recover from the 3 percent royalty fee, which is computed based on sales,” she adds.
The ROI for Panthree is 3-5 months while Tempura and Supreme is 8 months.
There have been good number of applicants lining up for Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, Laguna, and Bulacan. The most aggressive are those from the provinces.
But while it is very tempting to just approve these applicants, Santiago said they are also choosy as they consider the attitude of franchises.
“If they have an attitude problem even if they have good location, money and ready to pay already, we reject them because we need to have good relationships with our franchises, too,” says Santiago, who also used to work with Imarflex Group of Companies.
The family is also looking at overseas expansion as they have received some inquiries. But they are going easy on this because they would like to concentrate in the domestic market first. They are looking at a year’s timeframe to finalize the plan.
To further promote the brand, the family is also planning to get celebrity endorsers.
Another prospect is to develop another food concept. “We never stop to develop because we never stop discovering variants and new flavors,” says Santiago citing Asian fusion as the in thing for the millennials.
Santiago does not bear any trace of poverty in her, but she said, “My roots, I used to live in Tondo in a small store with my mother, but I have strong guts because I have a good driving force.”
Her learnings have been passed on to her kids, who now handle the finances, delivery of products and all the dirty works. “There are times we have to come home at 4 o’clock in the morning after making the rounds in all of our outlets. That is why franchises are required to be hands-on and not just as investors in the business,” she points out.
Dean, a psychology graduate, and Giann know very well that she will get angry once they do not take good care of the business.
Santiago also discovered that it is important to focus on a single product so you can create a distinct identity. Like the Supreme Hotdogs is known for selling good sausages, while the Panthree Chicken is only chicken and the Tempura King only sells tempura shrimp and vegetables.
She may not have become a lawyer, but Santiago said it is good for her because she was able to concentrate in business. Besides, taking up law was her only way to level up with her doctor husband, but it did not turn well as they still separated later on.
In business, the most important lesson she learned is to be conservative in dealing with finances. “You need careful study, slow but sure,” adds Santiago, who can now travel with her sons overseas, mostly in Asia.
Another thing is the “need to have a heart” because business is not all about money but there are partners involved.
“Most of all, pray a lot because there was a time that I forgot the Lord and I was scammed huge with only P20,000 left with me. But, instead of looking at it negatively, I was able to pull through and paid my partners in 15 years ago,” says Santiago, who now goes to church every Sunday to give thanks for all the blessings she received. The company has also set aside funds for the homes for the elderly.
Santiago started small from shoes, kitchen appliances and jewelries. Now, she has grown bigger and is into lending and food business. The lending business is already big, but the food business offers good potential. The horizon has been continually expanding for the mother and sons’ team.