People's CornerLetter to the EditorWhy some restaurants fail

Why some restaurants fail


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Disclaimer: You may not take any of my advice here. I am not an expert. In fact, I am a businessman who failed. All the things I write here are my experiences. There may be no reason for you to be influenced by this. Just sharing with you my two cents’ worth.


I had four branches of Big Poppa’s Deli before, and each one of them failed.

I was embarrassed to tell my story before, but after some time, I just decided that I could actually help others by sharing my experience.


Why it failed

Some of the reasons why operating the Deli did not work out: burnout, staffing issues/human resource, competition, the market, finances, lack of experience, lack of passion.

I got burnout. I’m telling you, I had endless sleepless nights, had no steady salary for about four years, I went into emotional binge eating due to stress.

I got really fat, and felt sad about my situation. I wasn’t happy anymore. I did not take holidays nor day-offs; I was always the ‘reliever’ whenever someone would call in sick.

I was just constantly training new hires, while at the same time, striving to be a good husband, and being a hands-on new Dad to our beautiful baby girl.

There’s so much stress going on in a businessman’s mind, that sometimes, if not handled properly, it can lead to burnout.

We had staffing issues. “Sir, di’ ko ka duty.” “Sir, absent ko ugma.” “Sir, ma late ko gamay.” “Sir, resign na ko!” In worse cases, they just went AWOL.

When I opened my first restaurant, all I wanted to do was to cook!

But no, one can’t do just that. Most of the time, you’re attending to/dealing with people: customers, suppliers, and even moreso, your employees.

The constant no-shows for interviews, the constant reminders to do this SOP correctly, the never-ending back-stabbing stories you hear from each one of them about their co-employees — I’ve heard it all. The never-ending requests, cash advances, and problem-solving that you need to undergo — heck, I was thinking, I didn’t sign up for these!

I used to be a fun food business owner/employer, I swear!

I used to give them birthday salo-salo consisting of two main dishes, cake, and ice cream, whilst closing the restaurant for about an hour just to celebrate the staff’s birthday.

I gave them above- minimum pay, with proper overtime pay, 13th month, bonuses, yearly get-together outings, even had ‘Lechon Saturdays’ for our staff meal. Imagine that!

I used to pass on to them my pre-loved clothes. (To those who know me well, all my clothes are of the best quality.)My Jordans! I even gave them  my Jordans!

And then I slowly watched myself becoming a miserable horrible restaurant owner. I just had enough! You know those times when you realize, “Ahh, sige nalang ako.

Yep, that was it! No matter how you make them comfortable in their working area, they just seemed to bring  into our business their varied problem after problem.

Don’t get me wrong, some of them were really good, and kind, and caring.

I have come to realize that I just happened to have an unbelievably-high expectation for them — which was truly wrong.Very very wrong.

There is stiff competition. I’m not talking about other burger joints per se; I’m talking about restaurants in general. And in this small town of Dumaguete, there are just too many; the City would need more people residing around here for all of the established restaurants to flourish and survive.

Side note:

Dear Dumaguete,

Do we really need another coffee shop!

FFS, there’s 30-40 brands already!



Who is our market anyway? These sectors compose Dumaguete’s market: (Kidding, there’s just one!)

And when one restaurant opens, the locals would flock to that place for about a good six months, one year if you’re lucky, or if your food is really good and cheap.

Then, just as easily as when they first came, they will slowly stop coming. You  start running paid ads on Facebook, and they come back. Then they go away again. It’s a cycle.

From what I noticed with brands that continuously stand out to their respective market: it needs to be [ridiculously] cheap; it needs to be truly valuable (meaning, if mahal, it needs to be sulit!); it needs to be accessible, it needs to be aesthetically-pleasing; it needs to be trendy; it needs to taste okay.Typical not-so-yummy necessarily, but enough to be interesting.

One of the local brands I truly look up to is Kapeng Local. Just wow. It now has various branches, and everything seems to work well like a well-oiled machine.


Finances was always tight

I had no savings, to begin with. Every single profit we generated before simply went to re-investing into new branches, new equipment, new talent, new brands, new location.

Wrongly so, I wanted everything to be new and “original” at least in Dumaguete. I wanted to be the first to do every single thing there is to do in the business, without realizing that the staff were not equipped enough to handle it.

I scaled up the wrong way.My mindset was to “put everything back to the business” — which I have found out too late, is clearly wrong. I failed with the finances.

We truly lacked experience. I had tons of experience in cheffing, restaurant, and waitering. Where I failed was the management/administrative aspect: Human resource, Financials, Marketing, Analytics, Logistics, Operations.

I know how to cook amazing food but I failed in those areas in management.

I wasn’t ready. I had close to no mentors, because my ego was big. I believed then that I didn’t need any professional help.

We lacked Passion. When one reaches that sad point of burnout — being emotionally- drained and mentally-exhausted, Passion quickly goes out the window.

Until now, my passion for cooking is not yet fully back. Maybe the restaurant business was not for me at all. Or maybe in the future, there could be another opportunity.

I know that if you are a restaurateur in Dumaugete, and reading this, you can definitely relate. So to you out there still fighting the good fight, be courageous and take it one day at a time. Slay one challenge after another.

There may have been a number of restaurants here that have since folded up, and there could be a lot more. If you feel you’re one of those on the brink of failure, may I suggest that you seek professional help from successful business people in the industry. Dumaguete is awesome!


Samuelle Bawasanta



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