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From neighborhood to nationwide: The startup story of a grilled bangus restaurant chain

Neighborhood fare grows to become a steadily growing food franchise brand.
By Entrepreneur Staff |

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The protein richness of the no-scale, de-boned grilled bangus (milk fish) served by Pixie’s Sinugba Inc. reflects its interesting story, which started even before it began grilling 10 pieces of the national fish in its first outlet at the Moriones district in Tondo, Manila in 2003.

“My sister Pixie, a member of the national women’s basketball team, came home one day and told my parents that the team was having problems with their diet,” recalls Jose Ma. Rey Valencia, the company’s chief operating officer. “She said they needed something that was high in protein, but low in fat, carbohydrates and sodium.”

To help the team, the Valencia family, which owns fish farms in several provinces including Iloilo, Samar, General Santos, Davao, and Pangasinan, volunteered to cook for them a special grilled bangus recipe, which the team later adopted to become part of its eating regimen.  It was also during this time that the family set up a small takeout outlet, aptly named Pixie’s, in their neighborhood.



From 10 to hundreds in a short time

In three months’ time, from selling 10 pieces initially, they were able to sell 250 pieces of sinugba (‘grilled’ in the Ilongo and Visayan languages). As demand increased, the family expanded the business and decided to establish a full dine-in store along Mindanao Avenue in Tandang Sora, Quezon City within the same year.

Valencia says: “Following our first store, we began to receive suggestions to add other viands in our menu, aside from milk fish. So we added pansit, vegetable dishes, and other personal family favorites like liempo, dinuguan, and sizzling crab meat.”

In time, franchising inquiries from frequent customers and big investors flooded Valencia’s e-mail, prompting the family to sit down and consider expanding the business. In 2007, the company was organized into a corporation called Pixie’s Sinugba Inc. He was then appointed as Pixie’s franchising director.

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Taking the path to franchising

Valencia admits, “As a person who trained in nursing, I really don’t have the fundamentals of expanding the business via the franchise route.” Challenged by the huge task assigned to him by his family, whose other members were preoccupied by other family ventures, he began to do his homework. He attended several franchising seminars. In one of those sessions, he met executives of Francorp, a franchise development and consulting company. He also says he made it a point to craft every detail of Pixie’s franchising scheme and mechanics himself.

According to Valencia, the estimated investment for a take-out setup is P700,000; its outlet should measure 20 sq m, and must be built on a roadside location. The takeout franchise expires after five years.

On the other hand, a dine-store franchise requires a P2.8-million investment, with a franchising contract lasting 10 years. At present, Pixie’s can be franchised in the provinces of Baguio, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan De Oro, Bacolod, Iloilo, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, and Pampanga.

“We now have 14 company-owned branches and 48 franchised outlets,” says Valencia, adding that quite a number of stores are owned by celebrities. Asked how many branches more would be added, Valencia says: “We don’t set a target number or limit.”

He says that at present, their rule of thumb in granting franchise licenses is the willingness on the part of potential franchisees to follow Pixie’s standards. “We have had to turn down some applicants because they refused to agree to our terms and conditions.”



More to offer

In line with its long-term strategy, the company has introduced more meal options for their customers, which range from lower C to A classes. Its most affordable meal costs less than P100. To attract customers even during the early part of the day, Pixie’s has also started to serve breakfast meals.

“Even if I don’t have a business background, I was able to grow a company built around one of my family’s food favorites,” Valencia proudly concludes.

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This is an updated story. Photos from Pixie's Sinugba's Website

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