Freeman Cebu Business

Top 100 Cebuano Personalities: Julita Urbina

Carlo S. Lorenciana - The Freeman
Top 100 Cebuano Personalities: Julita Urbina

CEBU, Philippines — Julita "Lita" Urbina is a woman of culinary prowess and a successful entrepreneur.

She has built one of the successful family-owned homegrown restaurant companies in Cebu.

What was then a small eatery in Lahug, Cebu City is now one of the popular restaurant chains in town.

She has managed Laguna Group of Companies, which now has several resto brands under it.

Looking back, Café Laguna, its flagship restaurant has been noted of its very humble beginning.

From Laguna province in Luzon, Julita, her late husband Ricardo and their children relocated to Cebu in the late 1970s and opened a small carenderia called “Mother’s Best" in their rented apartment along Wilson Street in Lahug to augment the family's income.

Later on, with a measly capital of P300, this simple "turo-turo" eatery transformed into a fully airconditioned 10-table small restaurant with a Spanish-inspired facade eventually named Café Laguna in 1991 at Veteran’s Drive in Lahug.

It was in 1994 when the business opened a branch in Ayala Center Cebu.

And in 1999, the company constructed its own two-storey building beside the mall to establish Laguna Garden Cafè. Through the years, the group expanded.

Today, it now has eight restaurants in Cebu under the brands of Café Laguna, Asian streetfood-inspired resto Ulli's, Laguna Garden Café, U Kitchen, Parilya, Vietnamese and Thai resto Lemon Grass and Laguna Catering.

Through franchising, the company has expanded to five branches various cities in Visayas and Mindanao namely Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Iloilo, Dumaguete and General Santos.

What started as a "one-woman show" business with only two assistants then — her launderer and driver — now employs over 300 people across all its restaurants.

Julita's successful restaurant business had become a recipient of various recognitions. It got a Store Operations Excellence award in 2004 and 2009 from Ayala Center Cebu.

Julita was also awarded as Entrepreneur of the Year by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2002, and Ernst and Young for Small Business Category in 2006. She was also named Valuable Entrepreneur from Perlas Awards, Philippines Foundation Inc. in 2010.

The resto also got several awards and recognitions including Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor, Best Filipino Restaurant in 2007 by Zee Bigfoot Choice Awards and Philippines’ Best Restaurants awardee from Philippine Tatler Dining. (FREEMAN)

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