Wednesday, September 19, 2018
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First Class

From kiosk to becoming next big resto

RJ Ledesma of Mercato Centrale leads the discussions at Restomania. —PHOTO COURTESY OF MERCATO CENTRALE

Sometimes you have a bright idea for a food business. You’ve created a new recipe for an amazing chocolate chip cookie and dream of becoming the new Mrs. Fields. You’ve discovered how to make sparkling guava juice and can’t wait for restaurants to serve your new drink. You want to honor your mother by putting up a restaurant with her name on it, serving the dishes that you grew up with.

But you don’t know where to start. Should I sell this on Instagram? Should I approach a grocery store? Should I join a bazaar to test out the market?



RJ Ledesma, founder of Mercato Centrale, observed that many of those who join their weekend/night markets are in this quandary: You have a great idea but not quite certain as to how to proceed to make your dreams come true.

So from being just a food market, Ledesma decided they had to expand their purpose and became what he called an incubator—an incubator of dreams.

“Mercato has been a startup place for a lot of food businesses. And we realized that our strength was not just in organizing the market but also in selecting food vendors, vetting them and mentoring them to become (bigger businesses), to helping them grow,” he shares.

So he started Mercato Academy, where they hold seminars discussing topics from basic bookkeeping to equipping the micropreneur with the know-how to become a full-fledged restaurateur.

Then he conceptualized the Restaurant Business Network, partnering with groups such as the Association of Filipino Franchisers and Go Negosyo, with the ultimate objective of helping startup food businesses grow.


Around the same time, Globe MyBusiness was coming up with solutions on the tech side to help small entrepreneurs.

Jan Stephen Martinez, segment marketing manager for restaurants of Globe MyBusiness shares, “All our projects and efforts are for restaurant owners.”


They offer tools that are sometimes overlooked but do make an impact on improving the restaurant business. These include a Cloud POS (point of sale) system, which allows restaurant owners/managers to see sales instantly and from anywhere around the world rather than rely on reports from the cashier; restographs, an analytics system that helps identify fast-moving products and dishes from those that can be taken off the menu; and other apps that increase customer loyalty.

They also offer Wi-Fi that can accommodate the Wi-Fi-hungry and social media-dependent customers of today’s restaurants.

For home-based businesses and micropreneurs, they have come up with the Globe MyBusiness Academy (, a learning platform by the Globe Academy. “Ultimately, we want to be the great enabler for those potential business owners who are not yet prepared to put up a full scale restaurant,” he adds.

With this objective in mind, Globe MyBusiness conceptualized Restomania, a food forum and trade show bringing together restaurant experts and connecting restaurant owners with suppliers and authorities in the industry. This year, the event brought together over 35 speakers—chefs, restaurateurs, food writers and consultants—who gave business owners “tips on how to level up their customers’ experience and be a destination of choice.”

They also partnered with Mercato Centrale and the audience eagerly listened to the success stories of those that simply started at the weekend market but are now full grown businesses.

Restaurant Business Network

So it’s no surprise that with the common objective of supporting budding food entrepreneurs, Ledesma through Mercato Centrale also partnered with Globe MyBusiness for the Restaurant Business Network.

Ledesma hopes to be able to help aspiring restaurateurs in all aspects of the business: from mentorship/training to food safety certification, branch character and design, marketing, accounting, microfinancing, human resources, product development, finding the right suppliers and getting the correct permits.

Globe MyBusiness shares Ledesma’s enthusiasm, envisioning the project as the first go-to of budding food entrepreneurs to guide them in achieving their dreams. “We know that Globe MyBusiness alone would not be able to support (food entrepreneurs) fully. That’s why we are bringing in partners to touch them in all aspects of their business,” Martinez says.

Globe has also partnered with Start Up Village and Manila Workshop, which will offer free courses or discounted courses if you are a member of the network. They have also partnered with Zomato, which will give a one-month free listing.

I think it’s great that everyone’s coming together to support food entrepreneurs—whether aspiring, budding or blossoming.

Congratulations to RJ Ledesma, Globe and all your partners on this great effort. I am excited to see the new batch of entrepreneurs who will be “graduates” of the Mercato Academy and the Globe Academy—tomorrow’s shining restaurateurs who would first strengthen their wings and take their first leaps through the Restaurant Business Network.

This is a situation that is not just a win-win but a win-win-win-win-win-win!

For inquiries on how to become part of the Restaurant Business Network, visit the Mercato Centrale Facebook page or

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TAGS: food businesses, Mercato Centrale, RJ Ledesma
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