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Manang’s Chicken’s dream

By: Vanessa B. Hidalgo, August 24th, 2013 10:08 PM

THE DREAM is to be the next top of mind fried chicken fast-food chain in the country.

Manang’s Chicken has a dream.

The dream is to be the next top of mind fried chicken fast-food chain in the country.

Asked how they’ll achieve it, Manang’s Chicken will be a homegrown modern Filipino brand. Instead of the usual fried chicken, Manang’s chicken is glazed with a secret sauce.

Jill Gerodias Borja , president and CEO of Giabella Foods  Corp., recounts that the recipe was developed by her mother, Marissa.

Yet it was their cook, Manang Linda, who often cooked the chicken for the family to enjoy.

“It was Mom’s recipe but cooked by Manang Linda. It was a hit during family get togethers. During potlucks, people would request for ‘Manang’s chicken,’” Jill says.

They started selling the chicken from their residence. Until in 2010, they joined Mercato Centrale—a get together of culinary newbies.

It was a slow start during their first day. They had to compete with a hundred food vendors. Eventually, the chicken stood out from the rest.

Jill says that they were surprised and delighted when the lines started to circle around their kiosk.

She attributes Manang’s sudden rise to fame to word of mouth. People started talking that they make good-tasting chicken.

The thought of turning it into a full-blown business crossed Jill’s mind when she started earning a significant amount of money enough to pay an employee’s salary.

Jill, who took up Accounting at Santa Clara University in California and attended Ateneo Law School in 2007, decided to take the plunge in June 2011.

The first branch of Manang’s Chicken opened in Ortigas. It was a 36 square meter dining area. Jill says that they’ve seen old and new faces during their opening. Some have heard of them from Mercato and some tried them out for the first time.

The expansion continued in the south. They opened shop in BF Homes hoping to tap the growing market there. Unfortunately, the 130 sq m did not live long.

“We’ve chosen a wrong location, wrong market. It was a lesson learned,” Jill says.

The toughest expansion lesson she had to learn was that even though there was a substantial number of consumers, it did not necessarily translate to sales.

“You really have to study the market. It’s not all about buying power,” she adds.

Although there is a growing market in the south, most consumers who live there stay in their homes only on weekends. Most of the time, they are in their offices in the central  business districts, Jill explains.

She admits that being a newbie in the restaurant business, Manang’s Chicken is still learning the ropes. But right now, they are setting their sights on franchising.

In December 2011, Manang’s Chicken put their aggressive foot forward and set up three more branches.

They’ve also had their share of criticisms. Months before they opened, Bon Chon came into the picture. Some thought that they were just duplicating Bon Chon’s recipe.

They took this opportunity to ride the wave of the chicken-glazed craze. Eventually, they positioned themselves as a “strictly modern Filipino brand.”

To further cement their position as a modern Filipino brand, they’ve tweaked their menu to deviate from the usual offerings of their competitors.

Jill turned to her sister, Jen Slagle, who is a chef, to head the research and development of Manang’s Chicken. Again, they went back to their roots and decided to add recipes that they enjoy at home.

“We do our own spin on our dishes and stamped it with the ‘Manang’s’ taste,” she says.

An example of a tweaked recipe is the potato chips. “We were fond of McDonald’s french fries. But we thought we couldn’t copy the exact taste so we made do with potato chips with dips on the side,” she explains.

With the expansion came certain requests for franchising. But they didn’t rush into it yet.

“It was very tempting to give in to those requests. But we didn’t want to be reckless,” she adds. To boost their confidence, they hired a franchising consultant to make sure everything is in place.

Systems were set up for billing, commissaries and logistics and a lot more.

“We see further growth through franchising. We have set up the necessary quality controls to catch substandard practices,” she says.

Also, she has created auditing departments to countercheck and make sure that each franchise will adhere to the best practices.

But finding the first franchise owner was a tough one. Jill then resorted to the original list of franchisers who inquired. And they found Joshua Gaor.

For Jill,  Joshua is truly the man for the job. She describes him as a “very eager, very driven” entrepreneur.

Joshua returned to the Philippines in 2010 shortly after he tried to work in Chicago as a nurse.

Yet he felt that being a nurse was  not his calling. He decided to come home and try his hand on becoming an entrepreneur.

“I think it was God pushing me to do more,” he says.

It was in April 2012 when Joshua first tasted Manang’s Chicken in Katipunan. And he became Manang’s Chicken No. 1 fan.

He decided that he wanted his own Manang’s Chicken. So he pooled all his funds to raise the capital for his restaurant of choice.

Joshua sent his franchise request almost every day through Facebook. His persistence did not go unnoticed as Jill handpicked him to open their first franchise.

What followed was a dizzying chain of events that taught him valuable lessons of setting up his own start-up business.

He says it was a lengthy process from finding the right location to securing permits. But Jill and the rest of Giabella Foods Corp. never left his side. They were with him every step of the way.

He found his spot in Ever Gotesco on Recto Avenue. Joshua was aware that the area is prone to flooding but he took it to his own advantage.

“When the flood comes, people will seek shelter at Manang’s. While waiting for the flood to subside, they could try the food,” he says.

On his first day of operations, Recto branch became an instant hit. By 2 p.m., he was nearly sold out. “I was shocked. People were coming faster than I thought. I had to request for an emergency delivery,” he recounts.

Joshua projects he will most likely achieve his expected return of investment (ROI) in two or three years.

He is thankful that Giabella Foods Corp. assisted him through his first venture. “They gave me advice. One of them is to beef up my security by installing cameras considering the location of my store,” he says.

Jill explains that synergy must exist between the franchiser and franchisee. They must co-exist and aspire to achieve a harmonious relationship.

The franchiser must emulate the vision of the brand in order to ensure its success and longevity, she explains.

“We’re lucky that we found Joshua. He has the drive to take Manang’s to the next level,” she says.

For franchise inquiries, visit / (02) 4035450 / (0932) 8626742.

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