Business owner ventures into food amid pandemic, says business is all about courage

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NOT FOR THE SENSITIVE SOULS. Restobar executive owner Charlie Tan opens his first food business at the height of the pandemic. With the right timing, the right team and the audacity, the resto-bar has been all the rage since its reopening on January 9, 2022. Tan advises budding entrepreneurs to take risks and not go into business half-heartedly. / CONTRIBUTED

While some may think how crazy it is for someone to start a business during an economic meltdown, business owner Charlie Tan thinks otherwise. He sees the pandemic as an opportunity to start a new one.

On November 23, 2021, Tan opened Executive Restobar located on the second floor of the Triumph Motorcycles showroom along Salinas Drive, Lahug, Cebu City. At first, his initial plan was to open a café, but he eventually thought of opening a resto-bar to offer a variety of dishes and cater to a wider market.

“Opening a business, whatever it is, is always a gamble. Risk is always a reality. There’s no guarantee it’ll work, but somehow I felt it was a venture worth taking all the risk on,” said Tan, whose vast business background is in the construction industry.

“I can’t wait to open the restaurant-bar even in times of a pandemic. I wanted to position the brand up front so that when it’s all clear, meaning all these restrictions are lifted, people already know about us,” he said.

Tan shared that this was his first resto-bar business and he had no experience with it in the past, but he is lucky to find the right team to help him and provide every Cebuano and tourist the best food he deserves.

Tan’s other business, a Phoenix gas station franchise in Mambaling, Cebu, was among the casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, he handed over the franchise due to increased lockdowns. He lost his employees.

But this temporary setback did not dampen Tan’s entrepreneurial spirit. He believed there was another business opportunity waiting for him.

Since opening in November, Executive Restobar has grown in popularity. But barely a month into operation, Typhoon Odette hit Cebu on December 16 and destroyed billions of properties. Tan closed the resto-bar and resumed operations on January 9, 2022.

“It was another challenge that I had to overcome. It was a bit difficult to start again, the utilities were down, but I’m grateful that we didn’t let anyone down. We used the break to improve things I got hands-on with the operation,” he said.

Since then, customers who have come in groups have become regulars, appreciating not only the dishes prepared by its chef Charles Co, but also the atmosphere and the good music. Indeed, on February 13 and 14, the restaurant-bar was sold out for the celebration of Valentine’s Day.

“I believe when you put your heart into something, everything falls into place. When you go into business, you need to be sure (that it will work). There should be no ulterior motives,” he said, adding that he learned all of this growing up.

In high school, Tan was already an up-and-coming business owner. He ventured into various buying and selling businesses just to meet the needs of his family. He became intelligent after losing his father at a young age.

“Business is courage. You won’t get results if you’re scared,” he said.

In the future, Tan wants to expand his business to other areas of Cebu, such as Mactan Island, where there is a large concentration of foreign tourists. He also plans to open the business to franchising.

“There are already franchise requests. Some of my friends wanted to partner with me to bring the brand to Tacloban, for example, while others to Manila. These are good opportunities that we are currently looking into,” he said.

With restrictions easing, allowing all establishments to operate and the country’s borders reopening, Tan sees only a brighter future for his resto-bar business.

“The business environment is still uncertain, but if we have to stop doing business because of this pandemic, we will be doubly dead,” he said.

And with the progress taking place now, opportunities abound, he noted. It’s never a crazy idea after all to open a business in a crisis.

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