Thursday, July 10, 2008

Eat and run

Learning & Innovation – July 11, 2008

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM


Eat and run


"We have only about 50 seats in the ground floor dining area and 120 upstairs, but we  gross an average of Php70,000 per day.  We used to do a minimum of Php110,000 before the Quezon City government started digging the street fronting our restaurant.   Our customers come here to eat and enjoy our authentic Chinese food."  Clem Jalijali beams with pride as he oversees the operations of Shaolin Tea House at #21 Timog Avenue, South Triangle, QC.  They are open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 3-4a.m.


After all those American foods in northern Americas, the beef tenderloin, steamed fish, siomai, chicken feet  and yang chow tasted so yummy.  Clem said they cook all their foods from scratch daily.  They don't serve "pangat" (pangatlong init or reheated food).  At about one in the morning, they put all unsold food on sale, buy 1, take 1.   They do not mass produce, so they continuously gather statistics as to what foods are their customers' favorites and they focus on those.  Every morning, they do their marketing at Aranque, Divisoria, Balintawak and Farmers markets and also at Puregold.  They also have regular suppliers of seafood and meat from Subic.


Every two months, they come up with a new set of dishes based on their customer statistics and demographics. They cater to the BCD market of all orientations.  On weekends, they have families and on a daily basis, individuals and groups who come for quick lunch, dinner or merienda.  They also have customers celebrating weddings, baptism and other special family milestones.  They now provide catering services for company parties and other activities.  They deliver within the South Triangle area.


They have not even done any marketing and promotion activities yet.  Their customers are mostly walk-ins, friends, and those who come because of word-of-mouth endorsements of satisfied customers.


"I am still learning a lot," Clem declares.  This is his first foray in the food business having been in the container business all his life because of his family-owned Megapack Container Corporation.  "My friends and I decided to go into this business initially to have a tambayan place and to serve the food needs of our employees in Valenzuela."


"One of the challenges, therefore, is managing an unfamiliar territory.  What we do is we, together with other friends and family, eat here every so often.  Then, once a week, we meet and critique everything about the restaurant.  Then we refine our plans and operations.  I am the only one involved in actual management.  No relatives are allowed to work here.  All our employees are professionals from Chef Ricky Bagat to our cashiers Mely Garcia and Ruby Tiamzon to our kitchen and dining crew.   They work in 2 shifts. During summer, though, the children of the owners work here in various capacities just to keep them busy.


"Another big challenge is pricing.  We have not increased our prices since we started in April 2007.  We are always finding ways to streamline and improve our operations without sacrificing the quality of our food and service.  The food business is price sensitive; we can't simply jack up our prices.


"The other challenges involve control—at the kitchen, marketing and cashiering.  I want to be in command without depriving our people their opportunity for innovation and decision-making.  So I consider them as partners.  Our lines of communication are always open since I am not also here every day."


I thumbed through their menu and they have all my favorite Chinese comfort food—dimsum and short orders—and more.  Their best sellers are beancurd roll, siolongpao, kuchay dumpling, tausi spare ribs, steamed fish, crab with sotanghon, crab with Thai sauce and steamed shrimp with garlic.  ahmmmmmm  I also walked around their dining and kitchen area and they're okay.  Clem said that they have pest control at least once a week since those creepy crawly creatures are easily attracted to any kind of foods.  Interestingly, their entire kitchen is visible from the outside through glass walls. 


Their mango pudding is fantastic.;

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