Philippine Daily Inquirer

‘If you believe in your idea, the money…

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success of the Japanese restaurant in Singapore was due to the use of high tech “kaiten” or food conveyors and an elaborate computer-based ordering system. “But this was very expensive to operate and maintain,” says Hubert, and did not really create a big impact on Filipino diners.

According to Hubert, there are numerous restaurant­s in the Philippine­s that offer well-prepared Japanese food at value-formoney prices: “The business is very competitiv­e.”

This said, he says that overheads have to be kept at levels that will allow the business to earn, but still keep diners coming back.

His Singaporea­n partner had initially voiced concern about the sharp deviation of the local franchise from its Singapore version, but Hubert is adamant at streamlini­ng the business. “I told him that this is my money, and I know what I’m doing,” he adds. In the end, Hubert believes that until he can come up with a better working for- mula, focus will be on delivering the quality of Japanese dishes at Sakae Sushi but keeping prices as affordable as possible.

“They say matigas ang ulo ko (I’m stubborn),” he says. Still, others would complement him as doggedly persistent. The son of George K. Young, chair and president of General Milling Corp., Hubert opted to start his own business after a brief employment stint with Hills Bros. in the US in the early 80s.

Hubert can claim full ownership to the Philippine version of UCC, even as his Japanese partners continue to marvel at how he has grown the business. This pioneering spirit was also the reason why Douglas Foo had approached and persuaded him to bring Sakae Sushi and Crepes & Cream to the country; and perhaps, this is also why Douglas has largely left Hubert alone in directing the local business.

Hubert is convinced that Filipinos will learn to like eating rolled crepes, whether as a full meal or as a dessert, in a paper cone-a marked change to the plated dining service that is the current practice in restaurant­s offering or specializi­ng in crepes. “If you believe in your idea, the money will come,” he assures.

In an industry where everybody offers the same service, the challenge to be different is more pronounced. “The growing number of dining selections today has given Filipinos a variety of options, but an experience worth their return is only offered by few,” says Hubert.

Without doubt, Hubert has claim to have successful­ly introduced some of the most distinctiv­e dining concepts in the country by fusing adventurou­s ideas of food and local hospitalit­y standards with a stock knowledge of Filipino dining preference­s. “It’s about putting a twist on the familiar,” he says. It’s about capitalizi­ng on the novelty of global cuisine but never losing track of what Filipinos like.

As Hubert will attest, this is a fail-proof recipe for success.

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