Food Link’s Rikki Dee | Inquirer Business

Food Link’s Rikki Dee

Our four generations live under one roof,” says Eric Enrico “Rikki” Dee, 52, owner of the Food Link group, which includes the franchise of the Michelin-starred, Hong Kong-based dimsum restaurant Tim Ho Wan.

Rikki and wife Elizabeth “Beng,” 52, and four children Eric Thomas “Chino,” 32; Eric Enrico, Jr. “JR,” 29; Ericka Elizabeth, 26; and Ericka Therese “Bea,” 19, live with Rikki’s parents.  The two older boys are married, so Rikki’s home is also filled with the laughter of young children.

With families increasingly becoming nuclear units, how can everyone live together in harmony?


“I married at a young age, and immediately after, Beng and I stayed with our parents,” says Rikki.  “The system worked well, and afterwards, when we built our own house, I invited our parents to live with us.


“We won’t put pressure on them, but when we are old, we hope our children will follow our family custom of caring for elders.  Then we can stay with our kids, too!”

Proper mindset

Rikki’s parents were in the construction business. When his children were young, Rikki took them to building sites.

“My kids saw me discussing plans with engineers, electricians, workers.  I wanted to expose them to the business world early on.  Not necessarily the food business, but the life of an entrepreneur.”

Many children would have complained about the heat and dirt in construction sites.  Some parents would have avoided inconveniencing their kids, ensconcing them in air-conditioned rooms rather than under the sun.

“I was a dictator,” says Rikki, “but proper mindset is important.  I required my kids to spend their summers working in our restaurants.”


Compared to many founders, I told Rikki he was far from being dictatorial.  Chino, who finished college in San Francisco, stayed in the US for a while before coming back to work at family-run restaurant Mesa.

Chino learned the trade, but after several months, asked his father if he could work outside the family business.  Many patriarchs would never permit their eldest sons to leave, especially when the business needed family members in charge.

“He wanted something he could call his own,” Rikki says.

Rikki gave Chino his blessing.  Chino worked in Malaysia and got married.

When the couple had a child, Rikki asked them to come home.  Because of their close bond, Chino and his wife complied, and their family stayed with the clan to this day.

Chino is now in charge of the restaurants division, but what he is best be known for—and what he finally achieved, under his own initiative—is the Todd English Food Hall in SM Aura.

Though the Food Hall looks like a buffet, it is not.  Customers can order food from one or more of the nine stations.  Though it may even look like a food court, it is not either, because meals are handmade and done to order, with stress on quality.

A proud father, Rikki was delighted to let his son take the lead.  Chino approached US celebrity chef English, negotiated with him, and convinced him to open a branch here.

“I tell my children to wait and learn, for their time will come.”  With Todd English, Chino is commanding the respect few restaurateurs have attained.

Rikki is a renowned entrepreneur, but what I like most is his common sense parenting style. Easygoing yet driven, Rikki and Beng have raised their children with love, but also with high expectations.

“We give things to our kids, but we don’t make it easy.  When they were in school, we gave them an allowance, but not excessive.  When they wanted a gadget, we would give them a phone, but with the expectation that they would pass the next exam or do household errands.  We pay for their flights, but economy class.”

(To be concluded)

Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the board of Ateneo de Manila University’s Family Business Development Center. Get her book “Successful Family

Businesses” (e-mail [email protected]).

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