Love, business go together for Octoboy owners
For restaurateurs Giovanni and Aifha Cheng, mixing business with pleasure is a recipe for success.
“Managing a business with my other half makes work more exciting while keeping our relationship intimate,” says Giovanni, who owns Japanese restaurant Octoboy on Tomas Morato Avenue and Banawe Street, Quezon City.
“Working together as a couple benefits our business because as husband and wife, we are naturally open and understanding of one another,” adds Aifha, Octoboy’s executive chef.
For a few years, Giovanni, a graduate of Economics, solely managed the operations and marketing of the restaurant. But after marrying Aifha, former member of the SexBomb Girls, who is passionate about cooking, the business eventually became a husband-and-wife venture.
After earning her certificate in culinary arts in 2016, Aifha now busies herself in the kitchen and with product research and development for the restaurant.
Giovanni, on the other hand, is at the helm of the business’ marketing efforts.
Such a working arrangement, the couple says, makes restaurant operations more efficient while allowing them to spend quality time together.
Giovanni and Aifha’s love for food was key not only to their romantic journey but also to their business.
“Giovanni and I travel three times a year to Japan just to go to various restaurants. We both love tasting whatever dish pleases our eyes. And through food tasting, we acquire great dishes for our menu at Octoboy. Yes, we travel for work but we also treat it as our romantic date,” Aifha explains.
Some of the restaurant’s new offerings and bestsellers which were inspired by recent trips are the jumbo takoyaki or Bakudan-yaki, and black takoyaki that is stuffed with octopus, shrimp, crabstick, cheese and vegetables.
“I was intrigued by the black takoyaki in a restaurant in Osaka which was so delicious. So I made sure to bring it here so our customers could also taste it. And they liked it very much,” she says.
Octoboy’s top seller is the takoyaki, a ball-shaped Japanese snack filled with diced octopus, which Giovanni perfected in five years before opening the restaurant in 2009 along Banawe Street.
Initially, the idea was to build a hole-in-the-wall outlet that offers Japanese street food. But Giovanni bravely built a restaurant instead.
From then on, Octoboy’s menu grew, and it now includes rice meals, ramen, steak and pasta. Its space has also expanded.
Its second branch along Tomas Morato Avenue has turned into a restobar that can host parties and events.
Giovanni credits his wife for the continuous growth of their business.
Aifha was the one who pushed for the upgrading of Octoboy’s Tomas Morato branch, which is frequented by families and even celebrities who love Japanese food.
“With the knowledge that I learned from culinary school, we were able to upgrade our products and service. We were able to improve our cooking, plating and generally, the dining experience of our customers,” says Aifha.
As with other restaurateurs, the couple is also confronted with constantly evolving consumer behavior. This is why they never sit still and are always on the lookout for the latest trends to overcome tough challenges.
“People are always on the lookout for something new. They crave for a new taste, look and ambiance, so this is why Aifha and I, as partners, are always on our toes to cater to our customers’ needs and wants,” Giovanni says. —CONTRIBUTED
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