AS more foreign tourists continue to visit Cebu, restaurant owner Ligaya Arong-Machida all the more felt the need to serve Filipino cuisine, wtih the belief that local food exposure is part of the tourism experience.
After growing her Nonki Japanese restaurant chain for 12 years, Machida diversified into another restaurant business, this time serving Filipino cuisine, after she purchased all the branches of Neo Neo Grill House in 2014.
Neo Neo Grill House has three branches located along Pope John Paul II Ave., SM City Cebu and Raintree Mall.
With the desire and dedication to bring Filipino food to a new level of quality and taste, Machida opened this year Neo Neo Grill by Ging-Ging, the restaurant’s upscale brand located at the lower ground floor of JCentre Mall on AS Fortuna St., Mandaue City.
“I opened this restaurant because I saw the need to have a better restaurant facility that serves authentic Filipino cuisine. A kind that would not only attract the local market but more importantly, the foreign market,” said Machida.
She noted that Filipino cuisine is among the top four cuisines foreigners usually eat along with Italian, Chinese and Japanese cuisines.
Neo Neo Grill by Ging-Ging is a 404-square-meter upscale Filipino restaurant that can accommodate over 150 guests. The restaurant also has function rooms to cater to events or special occasions.
In the long term, Machina plans to bring Neo Neo Grill by Ging-Ging to the areas where her Nonki Japanese restaurant is present. There are about six Nonki branches-- one in Davao and five in Cebu, which are on AS Fortuna St., JCentre Mall, SM City Cebu, Banawa and Mactan.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has been aggressive in highlighting Filipino cuisine as one of the country’s key tourism products that would entice repeat arrivals for foreign tourists.
Ryan Sebastian, DOT’s tourism operations officer, was quoted in a report as saying food and beverage (F&B) are the only tourism attractions that are not seasonal and are crucial to the tourist’s experience. He noted that F&B provides instant gratification and creates instantaneous memories.
On top of the booming tourism arrivals, the rise in consumer spending brought about by the improving lifestyle of the middle-income class also triggered investments in food business and fueled confidence among restaurant owners to expand operations.
Instead of staying at home to eat, consumers these days have gone out of their comfort zones and regularly dine out as their way to socialize, said Machida.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 20, 2016.
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