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Hot Shots: Fanning the flames of success

A brand usually thought of as a foreign one, Hot Shots is purely Filipino that is going global.
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For John Decena Jr. and business partner Carlo de Guzman, the opportunity to create their own burger business came rather easily. Upon graduating from the University of Asia and the Pacific (then called Center for Research and Communication) in 1994, “a space was offered to me asking if I wanted to put up something there,” says Decena. As a management graduate, Decena recognized the potential. “The space was really nice. It was across our school and I already knew the market, so I could sell whatever I knew the students would buy.”

At first, Decena admits, “we were planning to sell anything under the sun: school supplies, barbeque, sandwiches. It would be just a part-time thing. Or so we thought.” In October of 2009, construction began while Decena and De Guzman were finalizing recipes for the food they intended to serve. “We decided to do the burger first since that’s the most filling and what the students need since it’s something affordable.”

The road to the perfect burger, however, didn’t come as easy as the space. “We tested recipes for two months. We would do test recipes everyday from Monday to Friday, then come Saturday we would invite our friends to our house, serve our recipe for the week, get their comments, and then the following week we’d adjust the burger based on their comments, then test it again the following Saturday.” By December they finalized a recipe but were hesitant to launch because the students were about to go into their Christmas vacation. “So we were forced to open with just the burgers on the menu because that was the only thing we were ready to serve.

On December 14, Hotshots Flame-Grilled Burgers opened in a 30 sq m space in a parking lot with 400 burger patties ready to be grilled. “We finished it in three hours.” The reason, Decena says, that Hotshots was so, well, hot, is that they “maintain quality. We take pride in that. What (recipe) we started with we still have it up to now.”

Serving freshly made and pure beef patties with no extenders are one thing they’re proud of. And soon, people took notice. “They were lining up not just for the burger but for the franchise. They thought it was a foreign brand from the taste to the packaging.”

Taking that as cue, Hotshots began franchising their flame-grilled burgers in 2001. They now have 11 branches, six of which are franchised, and—proving their strong global appeal—four franchised branches in Indonesia and one in Singapore. “We’re not chefs. We’re not food technologists,” admits Decena. “We just love to eat.” And for Decena, that’s good enough to start a business.

Franchise investment: P3M to P5M
Restaurant space required: 15 sq m
Estimated payback period: 3-4 years


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