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

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NOT FOR THE FAKE OF HEART. Executive restobar owner Charlie Tan is opening his first grocery store at the height of the pandemic. With the right timing, the right team and courage, the Resto-Bar has had a good following since it reopened on January 9th, 2022. Tan advises aspiring entrepreneurs to take risks and not go into business half-heartedly. / INVOLVED

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 the Executive Restobar on the second floor of the Triumph Motorcycles showroom at Salinas Drive, Lahug, Cebu City. At first his initial plan was to open a coffee shop but eventually he thought of opening a resto-bar to offer a variety of food and cater to a wider market.

“Opening a business, whatever that is, is always a gamble. Risk is always a reality. There’s no guarantee it will work, but somehow I felt it was worth taking all the risks,” said Tan, whose extensive business background is in construction.

“I look forward to opening the resto bar even in times of the pandemic. I wanted to position the brand forward so that by the time everything is clear, people will already know us, meaning all those restrictions will be lifted,” he said.

Tan shared that it is his first resto bar project and he has no experience of running one in the past but he is blessed to find the right team to help him and bring the best food to every Cebuano and tourist offers what 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 quit the franchise due to the tightening lockdowns. He lost his employees.

But this temporary setback didn’t dampen Tan’s entrepreneurial spirit. He believed another business opportunity awaited him.

Since opening in November, Executive Restobar has garnered a positive following. But barely a month into its activity, Typhoon Odette hit Cebu on December 16, destroying billions worth of real estate. Tan closed the resto bar and resumed operations on January 9, 2022.

“That was another challenge I had to overcome. It was a bit difficult to start again, the utilities were down, but I’m grateful we didn’t let anyone go. We took the break time as an opportunity to improve things. I became practically familiar with the operation,” he said.

Since then, customers who came in groups became regulars who not only enjoyed the food prepared by chef Charles Co, but also the ambiance and good music. In fact, the resto-bar was fully booked on February 13th and 14th for the Valentine’s Day celebration.

“I believe if you put your heart into something, everything will fall into place. When you get into business, you have to be confident (that it would work). There shouldn’t be any qualms,” he said, adding that he learned all of this growing up.

In high school, Tan was already a budding business owner. He ventured into various buying and selling businesses just to satisfy his family’s needs. He became street smart after losing his father when he was young.

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

In the future, Tan would like to expand the business to other areas in Cebu, such as Mactan Island, where there is a large concentration of foreign tourists. He also aims to open the store to franchising.

“There are already requests for franchising. Some of my friends wanted to work with me to bring the brand to Tacloban for example while some were in Manila. Those are good options that we’re currently looking at,” he said.

With restrictions easing, all facilities opening up, and national borders reopening, Tan sees only a brighter future for his resto-bar business.

“The business environment is still uncertain, but if we go out of business because of this pandemic, we’re doubly dead,” he said.

And with the advances that are taking place now, there are many possibilities, he noted. After all, it’s never a crazy idea to start a business in a crisis.

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