Editor's note: The Business Mentor is a weekly business column by Armando "Butz" Bartolome, president of GMB Franchise Developers Inc. and chairman of the Association of Filipino Franchisers Inc.
MANILA, Philippines - For most people who are thinking of a business, one concept will easily pop up: food.
Unfortunately, getting into a food business is not as easy as many would think. Having a talent for cooking or loving good food are not enough reasons to go into a food business.
House of Lasagna owners, Jannah Elaine Chua and chef Frederick Congmon
Jannah Chua is the young woman behind House of Lasagna. The Italian-inspired restaurant opened in J. Abad Santos Street, Little Baguio in San Juan City in February 2009.
Aside from Chua, the business is owned by several partners including Frederick Congmon, a young and passionate chef who hails from the famous Congmon clan of Cebu – owner of the ubiquitous Sunburst Fried Chicken restaurant chain in Visayas and Mindanao.
House of Lasagna boasts of different kinds of lasagna - beef, chicken, carbonara, seafood, pesto and vegetable. The restaurant's beef lasagna was #1 in the Top Ten List of Meat Lasagnas by Spot.ph: Your One-Stop Urban Lifestyle Guide to the Best of Manila.
House of Lasagna
It now has branches in Eton Centris Walk and Greenhills Shopping Center. Branches in Shanghai, China and SM Megamall will open later this year.
The Business Mentor talked to Chua, who is also handling the marketing for House of Lasagna.
BM: What is the business concept all about?
Chua: Our concept is unique because we are the only one in the Philippines specializing in lasagna. The setting is in a casual dining for the comfort of our customers. All the items on our menu come from generations of family recipes and were made with the most premium and freshest ingredients. Our customers range from families, to groups of friends from all ages.
BM: How long has the business been in operations? What are the challenges/obstacles in the business? How did you manage to surpass such challenges?
Chua: The restaurant chain has been in business for 5 years. There were definitely big road blocks to get where we are now. We have been continuously improving our systems and operations to be competitive in our costs and still deliver the premium quality we boast to our consumers. Presently, we are in the final process of perfecting such systems to make House of Lasagna an ideal franchise for all interested business partners.
BM: How do you foster healthy business relations with your partners?
Chua: We are a corporation composed of dedicated partners who all work hard to bring out the best for House of Lasagna’s brand, its employees, its partners and its customers. It is always difficult to draw the line between business partners and friends but we make sure we maintain the friendship, trust and respect for each other. This makes us go through the day-to-day challenges with the least conflict possible.
BM: What are your business’s success factors?
Chua: I would say that the open mindedness of all partners to continually adapt to our ever-changing society landscape has made the business into a more mature and competitive business model. Of course, you cannot discount hard work and close supervision as the main factors of success.
BM: How do you manage to sustain your business amidst competition?
Chua: We capitalize on our niche and strong product differentiation. We make sure our high standard of food quality is maintained at all times and we continuously strive to improve and give the best food and service to our customers. We always leverage on the power of digital and social media nowadays to be able to keep up with the industry giants.
BM: What have you to say for those thinking of starting a business?
Chua: Never be discouraged by mistakes and challenges you meet along the way. These are the essentials for you to succeed. These will make you wiser and stronger. Do not be afraid to take calculated risks. In business there will always be risks but the returns are highly rewarding. Lastly, do not discount the value of hard work. In business there are no shortcuts but with patience and hard work, you will get to where you want to be.
BM: What direction is House of Lasagna headed to this 2014?
Chua: A couple of months after we opened our first branch, we have been receiving queries about franchising House of Lasagna. My partners and I could not believe the interest. With several branches opened, the intensity is great. However, we want to first fix the support as well as sustain the quality of our products. Our brand reputation is at stake if and when our franchisees will be left on their own or without any guidance.
By May 2014, HOL will be ready to accept franchise applications. Our first international branch is in Shanghai China. We are optimistic our brand will bring us to other global cities and join the growing number of Philippine franchises. They may send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions and more information, you may contact Armando "Butz" Bartolome by email: email@example.com. His website is www.gmb.com.ph