It was the dilemma of how to respond to the numerous low cost siomai vendors that prompted Gilbert Jim owner of Cantonese Dimsum House to launch his Shanghai Siomai food business in 2004.
Gilbert opened Cantonese Dimsum House after working for eight years in the IT industry. The business started out as a backyard operation, selling frozen dimsum products like siomai, shark\\\'s fin dumplings, pork dumplings and lumpiang shanghai to relatives, friends, and neighbors.
By emphasizing quality while maintaining an affordable price, he was able to expand the business to seven outlets.
However, around early 2007, Gilbert noticed that there were more and more low cost siomai carts mushrooming. According to him, these cheaper but poorly made products were proving to be a hit with the masa market. While recognizing the threat these low-end siomai posed, Gilbert also saw an opportunity to branch out to the low end market.
The first challenge he faced was how to adapt the recipes he used to suit the Filipino palate and at the same time be more cost efficient. He did this by making it sweeter and using local ingredients. To minimize wastage, he formulated a thicker sauce that could coat a wider surface more efficiently.
When Shanghai Siomai launched in July 2007, its combination of low price and quality gained it a loyal group of customers. Its image of offering a high end product despite, being a "25 peso siomai" cart allowed it to grow to more than 20 stores in just a year.
“I also try to keep my expansion in line with my production capacity instead of just seeking to expand my market share,” Jim said.
A Shanghai Siomai package can be had for a total investment of P210,000. The package includes the food cart, freezer, icebox and initial inventory.
The return period is usually a year, and depending on the location, sometimes even less. “Others just keep on expanding and then later they see that they overextended themselves and then the service suffers,” he said.
Despite the predicted slowdown economic due to the global slump, he expects business to pick up due to the shift in consumer demand towards cheaper goods. That and the proven popularity of siomai with the Filipino market means that dimsum food carts will be a remain a viable business idea for years to come.
Interested in a Shanghai Siomai franchise? Check out the details here.