Most of the tourists who visit Legazpi City in Albay make sure they drop by one of the famous local restaurants–the 1st Colonial Grill. Well known for its traditional Bicolano dishes like Bicol Express and Tinapa rice, what really catches its customers’ attention is its one-of-a-kind (and surprisingly good) chili-flavored ice cream.
Moreover, the odd dessert also comes in other unique flavors like cucumber, horseradish, and ginger ale, among others. Not surprisingly, this innovation put the restaurant on the food map.
The chili ice cream is just one of the fresh ideas that further promote 1st Colonial Grill not just in Legazpi City but even in other parts of the Bicol region, where it currently has branches. “Besides our Bicolano dishes, the chili ice cream has also become our automatic best-seller. We became the pioneer for that kind of ice cream in the Philippines,” the restaurant’s founder Bong Aspe revealed.
This fascinating dessert comes in 10 levels of spiciness. The first and second levels are available in its stores located in Legazpi and SM Naga, while the third up to the tenth levels are made-to-order. The product can last for more than a year as long as it’s kept frozen.
“We handle our ice cream really well. We store it at the right temperature so as to avoid melting. Besides our customers in Manila, we also deliver our products in Japan so we’re really careful on how we handle and preserve it,” he shared.
Promoting local food heritage
One of the restaurant’s visions is to elevate local culture and tradition in the local and international food scene. Notably, it was featured in reality television game show Amazing Race and in another popular TV show in South Korea. These opportunities have proven to be instrumental in introducing the restaurant to potential local and foreign customers.
Currently, it has four company-owned restaurants across the Bicol region. It plans to offer the restaurant to potential franchisees. To date, it is considering opening a location in Metro Manila. “We’re planning on establishing a branch in Bonifacio High Street in Taguig City next year. We’re also targeting various SM Malls in the metro as well. Slowly but surely, we’re trying to expand our restaurant and promote to the people the real taste of the Bicolano cuisine,” Aspe emphasized.
Practicing good values
Above and beyond promoting Bicolano culture and tradition, the 1st Colonial Grill also upholds the value of helping the less privileged. Within the region alone, it has already provided numerous scholarships to street children.
“It’s something that we want to do to give back to the society. We provide scholarship to selected street children to help them finish their studies. Our only prerequisite is that they have to stop their begging routine and focus on their education. We want to be a brand with a cause, and I hope that other big brands will follow our footsteps,” the restaurant founder disclosed.
Risk and innovation
Being a risk-taker himself, Aspe encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to take chances. “The chili ice cream was a risk that we took and it worked. The next risk we’re taking is offering our restaurant up for franchising. You’ll be facing a lot of these in the world of entrepreneurship and you must believe that the risk is worth it.”
Business ideas flood the Internet. Thus, the restaurant founder advises entrepreneurs to keep on innovating and to remain as original as possible. “Don’t just copy an idea, innovate it. Then test the market and see if it works. If it does, don’t get contented; improve it further. If it doesn’t, then do your research and adjust. It’s a constant learning experience,” Aspe concluded.