Cebu: Franchising hotbed in Central Visayas
Carlo S. Lorenciana (The Freeman) - June 25, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Aside from being the center for business in southern Philippines, Cebu also boasts itself as an entrepreneurial hotbed in this part of the country.

The fact is some of today's well-known Filipino businesses actually originate from the Queen City of the South.

A key testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of Cebuanos is the growing number of homegrown franchise brands that have come out of Cebu and conquered the national scene and even the international market.

Indeed, Cebu has become the heart of franchising and business in general in the region.

In fact, some of today's well-known business movers and shakers actually hail from Cebu. The country’s second richest businessman John Gokongwei started doing business in Cebu and has since grown his business empire, JG Summit Holdings, which spans from airline, food, retail, real estate to banking.

Other members of Cebu’s business elite include Erramon Aboitiz (CEO of Aboitiz Equity Ventures), the Gotianuns of Filinvest Development Corp, Michel Lhuillier, educator and philanthropist Augusto Go (owner of University of Cebu, the Lua family of Philippine Spring Water Resources Inc., and the Gaisano family (whose businesses include retail and real estate).

In a recent interview with Alegria "Bing" Limjoco, considered as the mother of franchising in the country and is the current president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, she said Cebu brands are doing quite well along with the national and international brands.

“Cebu brands are doing quite well, with some already making big waves in Asia and the Middle East. But we are aiming to inspire more,” said Limjoco, also vice chairperson of the Philippine Franchise Association, referring to Cebuano brands Penshoppe and Bo’s Coffee, which now have branches in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, respectively.

She said they want to see more Cebuano homegrown brands venturing outside their home base and explore the national and international markets.

Christopher Lim, director for special projects at PFA, said: “Cebu is a difficult market. Consumers are a lot more demanding in terms of quality and price. But over the past years, it has become competitive. Penshoppe, for one, is a big success story in terms of brands going international."

Limjoco also believes in Cebu’s capability to produce competitive brands.

"I always have a firm belief in Cebu. I believe more franchise brands from Cebu to rise," the franchise guru asserted.

Some of today's well-known Cebuano brand names have become household names.

Among them Penshoppe, Islands Souvenirs and Bo's Coffee, to name a few.

Let's take a quick flashback to how these businesses started and have grown to where they are now.


It was founded in Cebu in 1986 as the flagship brand of Golden ABC, the apparel manufacturing company owned by Cebuano businessman Bernie Liu. Being one of the early franchise players, Penshoppe expanded to a network of more than 300 stores here and abroad.

Golden ABC also owns clothing brands such as Oxygen, ForMe, Memo and Regatta.

Bo’s Coffee

This is truly a proud Cebuano brand. Because even before the famous American coffee company Starbucks arrived in the country in 1997, Bo’s Coffee was already here.

Cebuano businessman Steve Benitez founded it in 1996 has since become one of the country’s leading specialty coffee shops. The good thing to note is that it promotes and helps local coffee farmers by sourcing its coffee beans from local production. Today, Bo’s Coffee has a network of more than 60 stores.

Dimsum Break

Harbour City Dimsum House Co Inc., (HCDHCI) founded Dimsum Break in Cebu in 1996. The company had also founded other Chinese restaurant outlets such as Harbour City and Ding Qua Qua. HCDHCI is a partnership between the Kokseng and Uytengsu families of Cebu. The group started the Ding How Dimsum House restaurant in Colon Street in 1969. The company has since then expanded nationwide, with presence in Metro Manila.

Islands Souvenirs

In 1992, Cebuano Jay Aldeguer founded Islands Souvenirs revolutionizing souvenir shopping by transforming cottage-industry type products and giving it a fresh take. It carved out a new niche for itself by providing premium quality souvenir items that are creatively designed and packaged in vibrant shopping environments.

Today, it has more than 80 stores nationwide. Its island-hopping experience is called Islands Banca, while its chain of budget hotels is called Islands Stay.

Mr. Potato

This is French-born Filipino businessman Michel Lhuillier’s latest business offering, which he founded in Cebu City in 2013. Mr. Potato sells gourmet-quality flavored French fries made from imported Belgian potatoes.

Mr. Potato has more than 60 stores in Visayas. He is also founder and chairman of M Lhuillier Group of Companies, one of the country’s largest financial services firms.

Hukad sa Golden Cowrie

This restaurant concept was made by Golden Cowrie Restaurant, which first opened in Cebu in 1982. Hukad offers Filipino dishes and gives that Filipino fiesta ambiance. Today, it has over 40 restaurants nationwide. (FREEMAN)

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