EXPANDING the restaurant business in Manila will help owners of Hukad and Golden Cowrie widen its reach and showcase the Cebuano culture and food in highly-populated Luzon.

By 2016, Cebu Golden Restaurant Inc., the operator of Hukad and Golden Cowrie, will expand to Luzon after penetrating key cities in Visayas and Mindanao through franchising.

“We can open as many as we can but our expansion in Luzon will depend on the mode of partnership we”ll have and also the offering of the landlords of the major malls,” said Cebu Golden Restaurant Inc. general manager Kenneth Kokseng. “We are looking at franchising as our vehicle for expansion in Luzon.”

The company estimates it will need P20 million for a planned commissary to serve the needs of 10 to15 stores for Luzon.

Kokseng noted the Luzon market presents wider opportunities for the homegrown food business because of its high population and high level of consumer spending.

“For fifteen years since we took over Golden Cowrie, we have been getting inquiries to expand in Manila. Back then, we were just waiting for the right time,” he said.

The native restaurant has been around since 1982, with the Golden Cowrie in Lahug, Cebu City as its first outlet. The Koksengs retained the original menu and eventually added new food items over the years.

Cebu Golden Restaurant Inc., will close 2015 with 25 branches. It will open branches in Iloilo, Zamboanga, Pagadian and SM City Seaside in SRP this year.

Of the total number of branches, nine of these are company-owned and are all located in Cebu. Its first franchised outlet is in Cagayan de Oro City.

According to Kokseng, the company is spending P10 million each for the renovation of Golden Cowrie in Lahug and the opening of Hukad sa Golden Cowrie in SM City Seaside.

Amid the entry of new players in Cebu, Kokseng said the company remains confident and bullish.

“The market likes to taste new food concepts but I believe that at the end of the day, we will always look for comfort food.”

He added that growth in domestic travel has ignited the interests of people to try various food and delicacies in provincial areas.

Aside from the promising Luzon market, Kokseng also sees the regional integration as a big opportunity for growth.

“It is an opportunity for our brand to be known. Despite fears of tighter competition, the regional integration is an opportuntiy to put Philippine cuisine in the global map,” he said.