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Restaurateur Eric Deeâs menu for success
Foodee Global Concepts COO Eric Thomas Dee.

Restaurateur Eric Dee’s menu for success

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo (The Philippine Star) - June 9, 2020 - 12:00am

As we adjust to the “new normal,” one of the hardest-hit industries in the Philippines is the restaurant industry. We interviewed Eric Thomas Dee, COO of Manila’s top food and beverage group, Foodee Global Concepts, to share with us his menu for success in the competitive industry.

Foodee Global Concepts holds  the brands MESA Filipino Modern cuisine (which has over 60 stores nationwide), The Food Hall (the first celebrity chef restaurant and food hall concept in the country), Pound (a spinoff from the grill station of Food Hall and is mainly known for its burgers), Flatterie (combining an easy posh atmosphere with a take on flatbreads), Sunnies Café (an integrated lifestyle and café brand), Bench Café (fusing Filipino with Filipino), and Llao Llao (Spain’s No. 1 yogurt brand), to name a few. Eric has recently launched Food District Signatures on 5th at BGC, with our favorite food brands under one roof.

“The Foodee Global Concepts also has five Michelin-rated restaurants – Tim Ho Wan, FOO’D by David Oldani from Milan, Tsuta, Kam’s Roast from Hong Kong and most recently Hawker Chan, which is currently the most reasonable Michelin-starred establishment in the world from Singapore,” Eric shares.

Eric Thomas Dee with wife Kidd.

Here are the Top 10 items on his menu for success:

1. Love it to a fault, but know when to let go. The most repeated piece of advice is always, “Love what you do,” because you really have to. You need to love your work in order for you to be passionate about it. And have you heard the saying, “Love your job and you won’t work a day in your life”? This is something I personally experience with what I do and, believe me, it is the most fulfilling feeling to have, that you are doing what you are meant to do.

But making money is a different story, and when you start losing money, that’s when the love starts to fade as well. That’s why it is important to know when to let go, or you risk the chance of hating what you love.

2. Foundations. I have been blessed with great foundations that my parents have set up for us, but I know not all will have that blessing. So, find a mentor, find an inspiration and draw from that.  I was always advised to find a mentor but in my case, that was my dad Rikki Dee.

Without a good foundation, growth and expansion will be difficult. But once you have the foundation, growth will be a snap. Take Pound Burgers for example, because it was a startup, it took me more than a year to establish the foundations for growth. I established our production facility, HR, marketing, standardization and everything else before I was really able to grow.  Fast forward four years later, Pound has about 11 stores in Metro Manila and has “given birth” to a new brand called Flatterie.

3. Consistency. I would often say, if you decide to be a bad restaurant, then be a bad restaurant every day because if you are not consistent people will not know what to expect from you.  Consistency and service are the reason people come back to restaurants.

Consistency is the goal from Day 1 and making sure that your quality and service are the same across outlets regardless of location. Consistency is achieved by creating standards and making sure those standards are being followed. It’s a statement that’s easier said than done but definitely possible.

4. It’s not what you want, it’s what they want. I guess one thing I personally benefit from being the sub-generation Xennial is that I had an analog childhood and a digital adult life. Same with restaurants, I was exposed to the operations of a restaurant at an early age. (We are called “banquet kids” because I literally was running around the restaurant and my friends were cooks and waiters while my mom was the cashier and my dad, the server.)

I am old school in believing that “the customer is always right.” This may be a controversial statement to some of the newer players because the millennial term I believe is, “The customer is NOT always right,” and that’s the difference.

Yes, taste is subjective, what’s salty to me might not be salty to you, but at the end of the day, who is the paying customer? If the customer finds it salty—the answer is, “Apologies, let me take that out of your way and replace it with something more satisfactory to you” and NOT, “This is how our chefs do it and this is how we serve it.”

5. You’re only as good as your last success. Saying the F&B industry is competitive is an understatement because it is VERY, VERY competitive and having a handful of successful restaurants doesn’t guarantee success and that you are always the judge on what is current. Having a successful restaurant and expanding it is more difficult because you have to outdo yourself every single time. You have to be an improvement of the previous and better than your competitors.

Which leads to my next advice…

6. Somebody is working harder than you. There is no room for complacency in F&B and in any industry for that matter.

7. A plan is only as good as its execution. A beautiful plan with a failed execution is a failure. Execution is key and in restaurants, a simple burger dish with five ingredients can be better than a Michelin-star plate executed poorly.

Which leads me to my next advice…

8. It’s not about the hype. Create excitement over your brand or your restaurant but make sure that you are able to execute beyond the bar that was set rather than set a bar that is unattainable. Manage the excitement so that you can manage the expectations.

I often say that bringing in Michelin-starred restaurants is a double-edged sword. From the marketing standpoint, you get that immediate attention, but if you fall short you get bashed like there is no tomorrow and because the bar is set so high, proper execution is crucial.

9. Be agile and flexible. With the new norm, gone are the days that you would have concrete plans about growth and expansion, concrete plans about what would happen in the next short term, which inherently affects long term. Because all those pre-existing plans have gone out the window. Now is the time that we must be agile and flexible to roll with the punches. We need to pivot and adapt or risk disappearing just like that. As a group, we have reorganized our plans and are consistently on top and listening.

10. Safety should be our utmost priority. In this “post” pandemic (I’m not sure if we are at “post”), we have to work as an industry to develop this sense of needing to make our environments safe for the customers. Now, not only do we have to be good, we also have to be safe. It’s really, really a tough thing we have to do, but we are poised to weather this storm and with much hard work, we come out much stronger, more resilient and smarter. In short, survivors.

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at monsrt@gmail.com. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)

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