November 10, 2020
photos Miguel Abesamis of Studio 100
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Andrej Wisniewski of the Raintree Hospitality Group talks about the importance of staff, creativity during a pandemic, and his most favored ingredient.

Andrej Wisniewski of the Raintree Hospitality Group describes his role as a CEO, negotiator, taster, and occasional food packer. According to the Filipino-American businessman, the best part of the job has been to see the progressions his staff make, from their humble beginnings to their career growth. “Hospitality is often a stepping stone for bigger opportunities. We are happy to see them graduate, often to overseas jobs, where they can apply all the skills they learned with us,” he says.

The Raintree Hospitality Group’s business focuses on hospitality, from managing boutique hotels and resorts as well as food service, including restaurants, corporate dining, food courts, and online meals in Manila, Cebu, and Boracay. Having a huge foothold in the industry means that there are multiple challenges, even before factoring in the pandemic. “The biggest challenges in the industry right now are finding and keeping talent when people have a lot more choices now for careers and work, competing in an industry with notoriously tight margins,” says Andrej. Despite these issues, highlights have been many: from starting with one food court in 1998 to 28 hotels, restaurants, and food courts in 14 locations, the Raintree Hospitality Group has started more than 800 jobs and supported local economies all over the country.

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Andrej Wisniewski.

To be able to succeed in the dining industry, Andrej believes there are three qualities one must have in abundance, in order to succeed in this line of work: high energy, critical thinking, and passion over skills, the latter because skills are learned whereas passions are innate. The biggest lesson he has learned over the years is that while ideas are plentiful, execution is more important. According to Andrej, workplace partners are a make or break factor in the success of a business: “Only work with partners, clients, and colleagues who share your values and outlook, and encourage and empower your employees to make decisions and you will be rewarded.”

Innovating in a time of panic

The person who inspired Andrej most when it came to cooking was his grandmother, Honorata Fajardo, who started her food business, Bungalow, in the 1950s. Because of her passion for food, the rest of the family in turn became immersed in the world of dining. As a young boy, he spent time around his grandmother and parents, watching them navigate the world of food. It was this early experience that led him to imagine dining as a possible career. “I started working as a bellman and hotel housekeeper at 15,” he says. “And if you’ve ever been to the Wisniewski house, there is no escaping the food.”

In the current situation, Andrej has seen that dependence grows even stronger. As of now, the Raintree Hospitality Group has only partially reopened some of their 28 outlets seven months into the community quarantine period and has not been able to recall the bulk of their employees. To adapt, they have become resourceful in managing limited revenue and costs until the economy can rebound. There has been a shift in the restaurant business model towards becoming more of a food and food staple business. “We launched a couple of new online restaurants in BGC—Stella Wood-Fired Pizza and Pak! Pak! Chicken and we are launching a new online market Raintree On-the-Go with delicious fresh and frozen food for delivery,” he says.

On the hotel side, Andrej believes that there is less to worry about. “We are optimistic that tourism demand will return since tourism has been booming the last few years,” he says. As of now, Coast Boracay and Cha-Chas’s Beach Café have reopened and their focus is on the domestic market.

Read the full story written by Sara Siguion-Reyna in Lifestyle Asia’s November 2020 edition titled, “Rising Together.”

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