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In the business of quality: Elbert\\\'s Steak Room

Can a restaurant succeed if it goes against conventional wisdom in doing business?
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Imagine setting up a restaurant in a very ordinary, nondescript building away from the malls and commercial areas. Imagine locating it on the third floor, accessible only through a narrow staircase. Imagine not providing it with any signage at all, such that customers won’t find it easy to find it. Finally, imagine charging its customers with a bill of P2,500 or more for dinner.

[related|post]If you did all these, would you ever imagine your restaurant having a rosy future? Definitely not, but these were precisely what restaurateur Elbert Cuenca did for his brainchild restaurant, Elbert’s Steak Room. The surprising thing, however, is that since its opening at Salcedo Village in Makati City, the restaurant has been doing remarkably good business. It has been drawing a good number of customers every night, many of them repeat diners who have already come to the place more than twice.

His formula, he says, is a combination of the high quality of the food he serves, the unique dining experience and excellent service he gives to his customers and his boldly distinctive non-marketing approach to the business.

A major factor working in Cuenca’s favor is his previous experience in setting up and running the now-defunct Restaurant 12 in Greebelt 2, also in Makati City. The restaurant, which opened in 2002, offered a variable menu prepared by guest chefs in a theater-kitchen. Due to the restaurant’s dwindling clientele over the next two years, however, Cuenca decided to close it down in 2004. It was an experience that he says taught him to be more astute and even more innovative in planning Elbert’s Steak Room.

Even back when he put up Restaurant 12, Cuenca was actually not a newcomer to the food-service business. He recalls that at an early age, he was already “surrounded by the restaurant business,” his father having at one time owned and managed a Japanese restaurant, Furusato.

Being a steak-lover, Cuenca chose steak as the primary food offering of Elbert’s Steak Room. “Everybody loves a good steak, and at Elbert’s, we serve the best steaks you can find,” he says, explaining that his restaurant serves only the traditional but most delicious steak recipes and uses only the best ingredients for them. “My goal is to make Elbert’s the default answer when people ask this question: ‘Where can I find a good steak?’”


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