Restaurateur adds unique flavor to Ortigas dining scene
June 11, 2014  • Manila Standard Today

In recent years, the trend in Ortigas Center has been toward bold, thematic restaurants created by equally bold individuals with strong instincts on what is hip and happening.

Pioneers of such unique and distinctive gastronomic experiences usually come from an elite group of entrepreneurs, such as the one that 42-year-old Ricky Laudico belongs to. He is one of three partners behind the successful Sumo Sam Japanese restaurant chain and many other successful dining establishments serving authentic international cuisine around the metro. His partners are actor-businessman Marvin Agustin and Red Crab owner Raymund Magdaluyo.

Laudico has been a restaurateur for the past eight years. Earlier on, his life revolved around the world of advertising and sales. He used to work as an account manager for GMA 7 and for a real estate company. All that changed when he, Agustin and Magdaluyo took the plunge in opening the very first Sumo Sam in Shangri-La Plaza Mall.

Laudico still recalls Magdaluyo broaching the restaurant venture to them, which he decided not to pass up. “I’ve always wanted to have a business of mine,” declares Laudico. In college, he studied Advertising and Communications at the University of Asia and the Pacific, and subsequently took up an MBA at the University of the Philippines–Diliman.

As a college student, he started a garment business. After it failed, he went into the water refilling business. When that didn’t work out, he opened a nacho kiosk in a mall and later a burger kiosk and a pork chop kiosk in a school. He also tried to be a distributor of golf balls, but none of them ever quite took off.

“I’ve always been a positive person. I tried to find the silver lining, what I can learn from it. That was my thing,” explains Laudico. Indeed, after he grabbed the opportunity to go into the restaurant business, things have pretty much fallen into place. Barely a year after opening Sumo Sam, he quit his corporate job and went full-time with restaurant operations, and has never looked back.

Creating concepts and brands

The success of Sumo Sam spawned many other related concepts and twists like John and Yoko, Mr. Kurosawa, and Akira, all put up and operated by Laudico and his partners. Their other restaurants are Marciano’s and Balboa, which serve authentic Italian cuisine; Boqueria which specializes in original Spanish cuisine; and Dekada offering pure Filipino dishes. Laudico did a lot of conceptualization for all these casual and fine dining restaurants.

Creating the right brand is just the first step to achieving success for a theme restaurant. Laudico reveals that he also studies and applies market trends. “Every day, I study, I research. Every chance I get, I travel. I research what’s the ‘in’ food, the ‘in’ dish, the ‘in’ cuisine,” he says.

Laudico also considers quality, good service, customer care and authenticity as keys to becoming a successful restaurateur. “First of all, you have to be committed to quality—quality with your people, quality with your food and quality in everything that you do. No short cuts,” he says.

In opening new branches or concepts, Laudico underscores that “I’m very picky with my location. I go for high traffic areas, areas that have a track record of successful restaurants. I also go for safe and secure areas, areas with good parking.”

Laudico reveals that their latest, upcoming venture is one that will rise in an equally trendsetting mixed-use development—Robinsons Residences’ The Sapphire Bloc in Ortigas Center. It is a stone’s throw away from the landmark Robinsons Galleria mall near EDSA.

“We’re opening a gastro pub. While it is a pub where people can drink, our concept would be very food-centric. Normally, when you go to a bar, it has good drinks. This one will have fantastic food as well,” he enthuses.

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