The Nagi Group president says it takes three qualities to be successful in the dining industry.
After being in the retail business for 25 years as the co- founder of Plains and Prints with wife Roxanne, Erickson Farillas never thought he would get into the food business.
But in 2011, he stumbled into a hole in the wall restaurant in Hong Kong called Ramen Nagi. Inspiration struck; he had been searching for a long time to find a place in the Philippines that served authentic ramen.
“It gave us the idea of bringing the brand home. It took two years of persuading the Japanese owners to allow us to bring it to the country,” Farillas says. “They were going back and forth to the Philippines to see if it is really a suitable market. On their third visit, my wife and I made them agree, so I guess the third time is really a charm.”
Today, Erickson is the president of the Nagi Group, operating several food concepts. After opening Ramen Nagi, there was Fatfook, which serves authentic Taiwanese cuisine, Akimitsu Tendon, offering authentic tempura and tendon by seasoned tendon masters, Propaganda Bistro with their selection of Vietnamese cuisine, Hakata Ton-ichi, another ramen chain with an affordable price point and Wonderbowl, in collaboration with Ramen Nagi for artisanal ramen bowls and specialty cocktails.
The impact in the restaurant industry of COVID-19 cannot be understated. After establishments were shut down to comply with the government’s efforts in addressing the pandemic, Farillas acknowledges it was tough, but the only way forward was to continue communicating to think of ways to address the situation.
“We tried to keep up with updates, trends and the behaviors of people. So as days go by, we realized that there are still opportunities we can explore for us to cater to our customers and stay afloat. Everything was really a collaborative effort,” he says.
As the industry adapts to new norms, there has been a major shift toward pick-ups, carryout delivery and drive-thru. The Nagi Group has responded by making efforts to ensure their food is available in most delivery and online platforms, to ensure that brand visibility is there. An example is Ramen Nagi.
“We never thought of actually having ramen as take out. But we were still able to pull it off by having them freshly made daily and frozen to maintain quality and freshness,” Farillas says.
The restaurateur says it was overwhelming to receive positive feedback from their customers. “They weren’t just delighted with satisfying their ramen cravings, but they loved the experience of bringing out the little chef in them by cooking and preparing their own ramen,” he explains.
There are fears that the dining industry will never be the same again, but the Nagi Group hopes to alleviate those thoughts by ensuring a safe experience along with a good dining one
“Since we are expecting to have lesser traffic in our restaurants, we should also continuously strengthen our non-dining arm which involves takeout, delivery, and pickups,” he says.
While this will provide new challenges, Farillas is hopeful for the future. “I believe that given the current crisis, we should always be prepared in offering more options and more channels where we can offer our products to our customers.”
According to Farillas, the three biggest qualities to have in order to be successful in this line of work are passion, faith, and wisdom.
“Passion gives you the drive and excitement with work, while faith is important because you need to believe in your team for them to believe in your shared goals,” he says, “and wisdom, because having the knowledge of the inside out and the ability to pass on that knowledge to others is very significant.”
He believes that budding restaurateurs should not be afraid to fail. “Failure will make you a better and stronger person,” he says, “continue pushing for your goals and have a vision.”
As a boss, Farillas promotes a good work-life balance, a proponent of the idea that it promotes a healthy work environment for him and his employees. After a hard day at work, he prefers to spend quality time with his family, doing things as simple as watching a movie and enjoying dinner together.
In his free time, Erickson is a big fan of collecting cars and motorbikes. Riding on the weekends helps him keep his mind off from the stress of work. “It gives you an experience that you just don’t find anywhere else, a great adventure where you get to feel immersed in nature and scenery around you,” he says.
Traveling and exploring new locales is a source of inspiration, especially with his family. “I often travel with my wife to have quality time together, to explore and be inspired,” he says “since my kids are in school, we try to travel during their breaks, eat and explore new things together as a family. As a family, fitness is also something we like doing together like hiking and jogging.”
A meaningful life for Erickson is when he knows he is not just successful in his field of work, but is inspirational to others as well. “I consider myself that just a boss but also a mentor to many,” he says.
Photos by Hub Pacheco
This full story may be found in the September 2020 issue of Lifestyle Asia.