MANILA – From a humble family restaurant, Mama Lou’s Italian Kitchen has become one of Metro Manila’s well-loved dining spots.
More than ten years since it first opened at BF Homes in Parañaque, Mama Lou’s now has a total of six restaurants, including two in Quezon City.
Its latest branch at Ayala Malls Vertis North opened last year and has become a favorite hangout among families, and even ABS-CBN celebrities.
Crystal Tremblay-Sison, her husband David Sison, and father Richard Tremblay have been hands-on with restaurant operations, making an effort to brave the Metro Manila traffic to make sure that each branch is performing consistently in terms of food and service.
They strive to continue what Crystal’s mother, the late Malou “Mama Lou” Tremblay, started, by offering a combination of Italian classics and fun twists. Make sure to order the delicious egg-topped Breakfast Pizza, one of the newest items on the menu.
ABS-CBN News recently sat down with Crystal and David as they talked about Mama Lou’s beginnings as well the challenges of expanding a family restaurant and giving customers a memorable dining experience.
Here are five tips that aspiring restaurant owners can learn from them:
1. COOK WITH LOVE
“Binabalik-balikan ditto for the past seven years is my mom’s specialty, her Spaghetti Seafood Olio. It’s a very simple dish – it’s mixed seafood cooked in olive oil and garlic. It’s actually very simple, and a lot of people have tried recreating it in their homes. But of course, hindi nila makuha-kuha. We have our own secret ingredient – love,” Crystal said.
“In everything that we do, we have love in it. Lots of love.”
2. TAKE CALCULATED RISKS
“Nagbukas kami sa UP Town. Noong nabigyan kami ng offer, kinuha na namin. Nagbukas kami noong 2013. Nagulat ako kasi sobrang dami naming customers sa Quezon City. Hindi kami familiar sa area eh, so ‘yun, sinugal namin. Pero at the same time, we made sure [to plan],” David said.
“Today, UP Town is our strongest branch. It’s the smallest, pero pinakamalakas in terms of revenue per square.”
3. ALWAYS GIVE YOUR BEST
“Hindi kami nagso-soft opening. I think it’s an excuse for you to make mistakes. When we were opening restaurants, when we were growing, we made sure na may credit card na, full force na ang staff, and full menu na,” David said.
“Mahirap pa rin, it’s a lot of work. But we still do it.”
4. MAKE YOUR CUSTOMERS FEEL IMPORTANT
“The food should be really good, but it’s only secondary. Dalawa kasi ‘yan, eh. You should also create systems, making sure that the guests would have a memorable experience,” David said.
“Doon kami nakagawa ng standards, ng mga training, because we were very hands-on in the restaurant while creating the systems.”
5. DON’T BE SWEPT AWAY BY TRENDS
“Why do concepts like TGI Friday’s work? They’ve been here in the Philippines since he 90s. Shakey’s has been here since the 70s. But these brands have survived without rebranding because their brand is very solid. That’s what we’re aiming for,” David said.
“Mama Lou’s is a place where you can celebrate with family. We didn’t want to be ‘yung, wow, ito ‘yung trending ngayon. Gusto namin ‘yung slowly kaming lalabas. People won’t notice immediately, it’s okay. We don’t need to advertise. Word of mouth is the best, that’s how we did it in the beginning. Mama Lou’s is here to stay, and that’s how we envision it.”