The Visum vision

For most food and beverage-based businesses, the pandemic has been a particularly challenging time, with both revenues and employment put on edge, constantly wondering whether they can survive the months of quarantine, alert status, and limits on customer traffic. A new restaurant group bucked the odds by not only surviving but thriving during the pandemic. Led by its young and energetic founder, president, and CEO John-Michael Hilton, Visum Ventures has continuously expanded its footprint in the food and restaurant industry. They conceptualized, incubated, and launched new concepts, expanding these right in the heart of the pandemic, while sticking true to its DNA of bringing fun, flavorful, and healthy food options at accessible price points.

Koomi yogurts

While he was born in Zamboanga, John-Michael moved to Sydney, Australia when he was only six months old. He started his career in the hospitality industry at 13 years old, rising right at the bottom of the ranks washing dishes and waiting tables, and was happy to discover it was to be his passion. He strongly believes that Visum Ventures understood the economic climate brought about by the pandemic and reacted quickly to the changing mindset of the customers, and their new buying behavior.

“During the pandemic, consumers wanted to eat healthier, hence our heavy investment in Koomi (a natural drinking yogurt) and Zig (with its Healthy Made Happy tagline). Consumers are stuck at home, looking for new experiences, hindered by travel limitations; so we brought Oh My Greek to life, a new concept riding on the popularity of shawarma, but understanding how we’re a pork-loving country,” states John-Michael.

Oh My Greek food selection

“We capitalized on three areas: first, minimal investment outlay in physical stores, as we adapted and configured our restaurants based on the heavy swing of delivery versus dine-in, and focused on speed of service. Second, favorable rental schemes with the Malls; and third, as the tenant occupancy rate dropped, we secured the best locations with strong visibility and exposure,” he continues.

The Visum mission-vision and the aggressive strategy paid off, with mall operators more than happy to welcome this new food group. Their brands can be found at Robinsons, Ayala, and Megaworld malls. John-Michael acknowledges how SM Supermalls represent 70 percent of their brands and stores. They’re not only in the NCR and Luzon regions, as they’re now found throughout Visayas and Mindanao; growing their locally curated brands through international franchise arrangements and partnerships.

With Koomi, the outlets are 80 percent company-owned, and 20 percent franchised. For the brands Zig and OMG, they’re presently 100 percent Visum-owned, but a partnership model for strategic locations will be unveiled very soon. Most recently, they added T2 Tea, an Australian loose leaf retail tea brand, to the Visum brand portfolio.

For John-Michael, the overall goal is to give back to the community that’s supporting them. Visum Ventures did this by employing nearly 1,000 Filipinos through their various outlets, in turn providing livelihood for their families. Employing hearing-impaired staff members is also a personal advocacy of the Visum Board of Directors. Through Zig, they’re giving back to the local farmers by sourcing local produce as part of their push to go sustainable.

Zig healthy cravings selection

Asking John-Michael where he’d like to take the company in its bright, foreseeable future, he was ready to say, “I see Visum Ventures as one of the top privately-owned F&B companies in the Philippines, with an excess of 12 locally curated and internationally acquired brands.” Having directors and owners that are young and dynamic, and are specialists in their respective fields is what makes the Visum Ventures unique. John-Michael’s focus is on strategic/acquisition and culinary, Adrian Joseph Luansing is for finance and franchise, Andrew Neri handles marketing, for social media and PR is Ahtisa Manalo, and Hyacinth Luansing is for HR and talent. He adds, “We look at setting up our own F&B training schools, and outsourcing our executive management team’s services - in areas such as site acquisitions, franchising, strategic and creative marketing, operations, and F&B business models.”

What’s refreshing about John-Michael Hilton and his Visum Ventures is that there’s a long-range plan in mind. It’s a vision that sees corporate social responsibility not as some add-on, or something that looks good to mention in the Corporate profile or Our History section, but as something that’s organic and entwined in their everyday culture and DNA.

John-Michael Hilton, the founder, president, and CEO of Visum Ventures

I’ve had the opportunity to be a guest at several of their store openings; for a while, it felt like there were a couple every week. It got so that I’d be confused which brand was being represented that specific day. And so one time, John-Michael shared with me the calendar on his mobile, and plotted there was the schedule of his store openings. From the glance I was offered, it certainly looked like each day of the month was blocked with some opening. I was laughing inside, thinking that Visum needed more days in any given month, given how aggressive their current expansion plans are.

What’s next on Visum’s drawing board? As Manila eases out of the pandemic, watch out for another forward-looking concept featuring inventive premium cocktails made with top-shelf spirits that would surely look to revive the Metro’s bar scene battered by the pandemic. Watch this space!