With the food industry still wading through the COVID-19 crisis, how can one navigate a franchise operation or even open a new business?

Kevin Villarica of Filipino restaurant Hapag  was among the owners who acquired the Philippine franchise of Taiwanese milk tea brand Presotea before the pandemic started. Presotea stands out in the milk tea market because it uses customized espresso machines to extract flavor from tea leaves.

While having a good product is an advantage, Villarica has learned to adjust his expectations in the face of uncertain times. “Our mindset right now is that as long as we’re able to generate enough revenue to sustain daily operations, that’s already a win for us given today’s business climate.”

Taiwanese milk tea brand Presotea infuses Filipino flavors into its product lineup
Taiwanese milk tea brand Presotea infuses Filipino flavors into its product lineup

Right now, Villarica’s team is focused on bringing the product to consumers when consumers can’t get to it. Adapting to changing quarantine regulations posed a challenge to the staff but this was easier to handle than when the enhanced community quarantine was implemented. To fit into the new business landscape, the team had to update their manual operations and processes.

“We believe that the brand can still grow even in times of uncertainty as long as we play our cards right and are bold enough to know and take the risks involved,” says Villarica.

Aside from Presotea, Villarica is also launching Wagyu bowl business Ginza Gyu. The venture is a collaboration with his friends from cloud kitchen Raspberry Group helmed by Rich Sanz of Foodasia Group, Maxine Marcelino, Mikael Jiang, and Queenzyleen Lee. 

New food business Ginza Gyu is inspired by the group's travels in Japan
Ginza Gyu is inspired by the group’s travels in Japan

Ginza Gyu is a concept inspired by the group’s travels in Japan with the goal of creating a go-to place for premium quality but affordable beef bowls. Sanz, Marcelino, and Villarica were thinking of original dine-in concepts prior to the beef bowl idea but those would have to wait until after the pandemic.

“The best advice I can give is to know what you are getting yourself into. Ask yourself if opening a business is of utmost priority to you, especially during difficult times. Your welfare and those of your loved ones should always come first. After (the crisis) and if you still have enough resources to start a small business, then get to work,” says Villarica.