restaurants in Metro Manila

Rebuilding Quezon City’s Sangkalan restaurant after the pandemic

Philip M. Lustre Jr.

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Rebuilding Quezon City’s Sangkalan restaurant after the pandemic

Sangkalan's Facebook

Owner Carlos de Guzman recalls how he reengineered Sangkalan's institutional branches in Visayas Ave and West Avenue to recover after the lockdown

MANILA, Philippines – The nationwide 2020 lockdown, imposed by then-president Rodrigo Duterte to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus – was most traumatic for Philippine businesses big and small, including the two branches of Sangkalan Restaurant, which entrepreneur Carlos de Guzman put up in Quezon City to cater mainly to the middle class.

“Bangungot (Nightmare),” De Guzman said, expressing his exasperation over the sudden imposition of one of the harshest lockdowns in the region. De Guzman recalled how he beefed up his inventory to prepare for the spate of reservations his restaurants received for the incoming summer months of April and May. They included receptions for weddings, baptisms, birthdays, graduations, and other celebrations.

The lockdown came and hell broke loose, he recalled. He had to return the deposits, which the hosts paid him in advance to confirm their reservations. He said he could have claimed “force majeure” and kept the money for himself, but it was not the proper way to do business. It was bad for his business, he said in hindsight.

“I felt sad witnessing many business establishments closing shop because I’m a businessman too,” he said. “Even at the start of the lockdown, we wanted to go back to the thick of things. We did not close shop because we knew it would be difficult if we did, and reopen later. We took the lockdown as a temporary thing.”

“We returned their deposits because we believed it was the right thing to do. When the situation normalized, we knew these customers would return to us. But if we did not, we would lose them forever. The decades of building a market would be gone forever,” De Guzman said.

Relaxed restrictions, resuming operations

As the situation normalized and restrictions eased, Sangkalan quietly resumed operations without losing the market. But it quietly engaged in a reengineering program to enable the brand “Sangkalan” to fit in a changing market. De Guzman has led it to a new direction, which is to make the brand known for being essentially a family restaurant.

It did not come overnight. He saw intervening factors, prompting him to rethink and reposition the brand in the changing hospitality market, De Guzman said.

He saw how families gathered in the two branches amid relaxed restrictions two years after the lockdown. It was all life, he said. It dawned on him that the best way to get back to business was to convert the brand for family gatherings, lunches, dinners, and occasions that require a much bigger place than their homes.

It would need capital influx. He sold a piece of real estate property to raise new funds. Moreover, his brother-in-law, a retiree with fresh funds, bought a franchise in 2021. They put up a Sangkalan outlet in Dagupan City. He helped him to train the staff, mostly local hires, and establish the system. The branch is now doing well. The funds he raised from the new franchise helped him in the reengineering program.

The reengineering program makes the brand perfect for family gatherings and receptions like weddings,  baptisms, graduations, reunions, or wedding renewals. The brand is not limited to family gatherings alone. It has expanded to include occasions for schools, professional and civic groups, and sectoral organizations as well. It has acquired new fixtures that fit well for a family restaurants like bigger tables and sturdier chairs.

The Sangkalan branch in Visayas Avenue has moved to a two-story building in the same stretch. Its new location has enabled the branch to accommodate more people and bigger occasions.

According to De Guzman, the pair of restaurants has stopped offering entertainment shows, which customers had gone to not only for entertainment but also for bantering and booze. This is to allow families and group mates to have gatherings in a friendly atmosphere.

“Actually, the brand is now easier to manage as we don’t have occasions when customers get unruly and rowdy because of booze,” he said.

De Guzman established the first Sangkalan branch in Visayas Avenue in late 1991. It flourished, prompting him to put up the second Sangkalan outfit in Scout Albano nearly two years later. The two Sangkalan branches are regular fixtures in their chosen locations, he said.  

The Visayas Ave branch is located in a crossroad that encompasses several middle class villages. Hence, it services a bigger market. The West Avenue branch likewise covers a big area, although competition is stiffer because of the presence of other restaurants with established branches there. Sangkalan is open for negotiations for franchises, he said.

“Sangkalan is here to stay in the middle class market of Quezon City,” De Guzman said. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!