SAAN tayo kakain?

For the College of Commerce and Business Administration, finding the answer to this generic question has been one of the objectives of some Thomasian entrepreneurs.

Students under the entrepreneurship program were required to establish businesses as part of their theses and, true to their objective, were able to hit this sweet spot.

Not ‘just’ a thesis

Thomasian gourmets may start to recognize stores at a glance, and even formulate “food plans” before ever entering their chosen establishments. From a diversity of meals and price ranges, a prospective Thomasian may either try new meals or simply choose their “usual.”

But more than the full stomach and money well-spent, Thomasians may agree that it is the stories behind every meal that count. Some of their favorite establishments have stories of their own.

For instance, Celine Tabia would consider “Chiquitos” her “saving grace.” Celine would not have graduated in 2010 had it not been for this risky move.

“[My] first business plan was rejected,” she said. “Nakita ko yung vacant space dati sa Asturias, [tapos] sabi ko, bahala na kasi wala talaga akong alam sa food. The rest is history.”

Chiquitos came from “Chi,” Celine’s nickname, and “Quito” from her grandfather. Originally a Mexican-themed restaurant, “Chi” eventually evolved into “Chicken” and Chiquitos became the all-chicken restaurant it is known today.

Partners Bill Hablo and Lynice Coronado may be more well-known by their signature tapsilog from Billy’s Tapa To-Go, a restaurant that specializes dishes for take-out.

The establishment of Billy’s Tapa To-Go has won for Hablo and Coronado UST’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

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Newcomer Tanya Macabuhay’s “Snacketeers” just opened March this year with an all-day breakfast premise.

“Several names yung tina-try namin sa DTI (Department of Trade and Industry). Maraming names na mas interesting, pero hindi nila na-approve,” she said. “Snacketeers, if you’re familiar with the Three Musketeers, [so] there’s a ‘recall’ involved.”

Home is where the profit lies

Although their menus consisted of homemade meals, it is perhaps the flexibility of their dishes that appeal to Thomasian foodies.

Chiquitos’ bestsellers buffalo chicken and chicken-based meals are worth 60 pesos.

“[Ang] price range ko is P60. Dati, P55, kaso after two years ginawa ko nang P60,” Celine said. “Kaso kasi yung tao parang, ‘Ay, P60 na?’ [kasi] ang bilis nila mag-react.”

She said that though another branch was opened in Mendiola, Chiquitos had a lot of competition. After opening the new branch September last year, Celine eventually closed shop and settled for her Asturias branch.

“Mahirap kasi yung competition [sa Mendiola],” she said. “Maraming kainan at saka lutong-bahay, tapos sa price of 50 pesos ang dami nang [kanin at ulam].”

Celine added while she was working out with a P60 price range, a new branch on P. Noval Street or Taft Avenue may boost profit.

“Doon (P. Noval Street or Taft Avenue) ko nalang sana gustong mag-expand kasi sa UST, alam na rin siya (Chiquitos), familiar na yung mga tao,” she said. “Sa Taft, mas may kaya [yung mga customer, at] hindi sila sensitive sa prices so pwede ko na paglaruan yung prices doon.”

Billy’s Tapa To-Go, known for their signature tapsilog, offers other dishes such as liempo and other homemade fried dishes.

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“[We use] competitive pricing, kasi kung iko-compare mo sa iba, kailangan naiba-balance mo [yung prices] para makapasok ka sa market,” Lynice said. “Mahirap kasi makipag-compete kung tataasan mo, [at] baka mahirapan kang makapasok sa market since bago ka pa lang.”

The signature tapa, which recipe came all the way from Nagcarlan, Laguna, is delivered every morning to the stall in Antonio Street. Although the small eatery specializes in take-out meals, small tables were set up on the walls of the small store for a dine-in option.

No limits to creativity

Tanya did careful research on concept restaurants before coming up with a plan that eventually blossomed into Snacketeers.

“Ang gusto talaga namin i-serve is all-day breakfast, pasta and sandwiches pero we found out na dito sa school market [ay] talagang hanap ‘yung may rice, so kailangan talaga naming mag-offer ng mga rice meals,” she said. “[Kailangan] affordable ‘yung prices para meron kami nung chunk ng karamihan ng market, which is UST talaga.”

She said it would be effective to put oneself into the shoes of customers to have an idea on what kind of concept might sell.

“Gusto namin na ‘yung servings niya, hindi nakakabitin,” she said. “Before, we went to several own-concept places, and we found out na parang nakakabitin.”

Snacketeers added more rice meals fitting the middle mark of the price range. Products included bestsellers pasta and pancakes, chicken meals, and desserts.

Although fairly new in their chosen field, the three restaurants, may be just dots in the cluster of successful businesses created by intuitive Thomasian minds, show that the secret in success in not trying to find what the customers want, but in finding the sweet spot through finding what they want to share with their target market.

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