A new ‘Dong’ in the capital’s metropolitan

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Sunday, July 6, 2014


CEBU CITY—Proprietors Barney and Aubrey Borja’s food business started out in a small space, secluded in some street corner in Guadalupe, Cebu City. It opened and defied conventional sales or marketing strategies with regard to its area and location. In fact, some people’s bedrooms were bigger than Dong Juan’s first-ever restaurant space in 2007.

But forward to today, with the experience gathered by the couple paired with their entrepreneurial persistence, the food brand has launched its latest branch right in the heart of Quezon City, Metro Manila.

“We were looking for a model branch in Manila for a very long time but we did not want to open one just for the sake of doing so. We truly wanted an area that will best fit our concept,” shared Barney, who was pretty busy during the launch at Dong Juan, Mother Ignacia St., Quezon City, June 27.

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The company’s direction to expand up north was timely and all the more, added to the noise that several Cebu-based restaurants were already making just very recently.

“Iwagayway ang bandera,” Barney joked about representing the Cebu brand in Manila.

“Nerve-wracking,” the man stated as well how it felt to be some “food ambassador.”

“We are very excited that we get to represent Cebu here in Manila and hopefully be recognized as one of the well-known restaurant chains here in the Philippines.” With the restaurant in a location that’s already immensely popular with numerous restaurants, bars and hangouts for the public to choose from, this would be easier said than done. But according to Aubrey, she desires for the restaurant to strive for excellence and consistency.

It’s a formula she prefers to focus on especially that this branch is still in its “baby-phase.” The strategy is for the “Dong” to capture the palates of local diners “through our unique dishes and quality food,” Aubrey shared.

“We always stay true to our concept, which is to serve quality food for the typical “Dong.” With the quality of the dishes we are offering, our prices are very reasonable and very competitive. [The place also exudes a] very homey ambience. It’s like taking our first Dong Juan branch in Guadalupe, Cebu, to another level,” explained Barney.

The term “another level” may be applied, literally or figuratively speaking.

What started as a small space in Cebu, has now found its 16th branch nationwide opening in Metro Manila, as an entire two-storey house with a porch on the second floor, numerous bedrooms transformed into dining rooms and al fresco dining areas to add. Also for trivia geeks, the house has a lot of history attached to it. The home belonged to Severino Reyes, the founder and editor of the Tagalog magazine, Liwayway, and the author who is attributed for the well-known anthology of short stories Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang.

With Quezon City as well, hosting most major television and radio networks, the place is quickly turning out to be a hangout for celebrities. “Martin Nievera did the ribbon cutting. He was able to go to one of the branches in Marquee Mall in Pampanga and fell in love with the burger and the Dong Juan Fried Rice. Luke Mejares was able to dine there while we were on soft opening,” enumerated Barney. Also present during their launch were Jimmy Bondoc, Ito Rapadas of the Neo Colours, Gretchen Fullido, Claudine Baretto and Niña Corpuz.

Despite the spotlight and star power, the couple desires to stay true to their brand’s vision. “Dong Juan is not a very loud brand, but we hope to be the first in the minds of all the “dodongs and the indays” in the Philippines when they want to eat surprisingly quality dishes.” (LQ3)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 07, 2014.

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