By Tito Mike
An accounting manager and a physician specializing in ophthalmology may sound like the unlikeliest partners to operate a restaurant, but that’s exactly what Denise Gregonia and Maoi Soriano have been doing these past four years.
Just recently, the partners opened their newest Out of Nowhere Kitchen branch on the third floor of SM CDO Downtown and shared with us their interesting journey.
Maoi & Denise with OON SM CDO Downtown Crew. (photo courtesy of 33 Food Group)
Both lumads from the City of Tagum, Davao del Norte, they originally started with a nail salon in 2017 but found it wasn’t their cup of tea, then shifted to a milk tea franchise which was all the rage at that time. However, it seems the food portion of the milk tea business interested them even more, so they started looking around for a suitable franchise that would be more to their liking.
The partners are gourmands who are wont to travel to different places out of town to savor the local fare, especially the local recipes like those found in small hole-in-the-wall establishments.
While on a trip to Davao City, they were both impressed with Out of Nowhere Kitchen’s unique menu.
Two function rooms seat 18 pax each (photo courtesy of CDOLifestyle)
“The menu is very original,” Maoi shared. “The menu is very different compared to their competitors which offer the usual family staples. There are already too many players in that niche.”
“We tried their barbecue skewers, the taste is different, the skewers are bigger compared to the usual,” Denise observed.
They emailed the owners to inquire about franchising but unfortunately, the principals were not yet ready at the time since they had also just started quite recently.
Out of Nowhere Kitchen was started in October 2016 in a dormitory building at Brgy. Alfonso, Lanang, Davao City by Teddy Uy Tan, a Marketing Major who is knowledgeable in construction and structural technicalities; Razel Ann Suy Tan, an Entrepreneurship Major and Culinary Studies graduate; and Ralph Lester Tom, also a Culinary Studies graduate specializing in Modern French Pastries
The name Out of Nowhere Kitchen was inspired by the partners penchant for planning things and sharing ideas “from out of nowhere”.
Eventually, the OON principals wrote Denise and Maoi back in 2019 to inform them they could now avail of a franchise.OON Tagum opened in 2019 in Robinson’s Tagum, and was followed by another on October 31, 2022 at SM City CDO Uptown’s North Wing.
1 Spicy Korean BBQ
The OON branch at the North Wing has been doing great since its opening. Despite being basically an inihaw-sinugba country, Kagay-anons and customers from nearby towns and cities still prefer the Asian Grilled Skewers with the Spicy Korean BBQ and Beef Kebab heading the list of best sellers.
2 Beef Kebab
3 Chicken Sattay
“We always ask feedback from our customers because taste is very subjective and you can’t satisfy everyone,” Maoi notes.
Menu selection is done by the franchise owner Razel Ann Suy Tan –whom Maoi describes as “a genius when it comes to food.” She does research on the sales of particular items in consultation with the franchisees, then formulates new menu items and tweaks existing ones based on the data.
4 Asian Grilled Skewers
“Out of Nowhere Kitchen aims to always apply diversity and uniqueness in the menu,” reads the OON statement in Pinoy Entrepreneur. “Our set menu has no pork to ensure that everyone, regardless of religion or ethnicity can dine within the premises. We provide three main categories with sub categories: appetizers, main courses and pastas, baked goods such as small and big cakes, and homemade items with only one fish product in oil with three variations.”
OON Caribbean Chicken
The partners opened their second and third branches in Cagayan de Oro because compared to other places, they noted how the people here know how to appreciate and don’t mind paying a premium for good food.
Consequently, the partners decided to open an OON SM CDO Downtown branch because they wanted to reach out to a different market and break into other niches with their function rooms for social and business events.
Another plus with the OON franchise was it only takes around 3-4 months from gestation to launching a new branch. For instance, they managed to leverage their experience gained with their SM City CDO Uptown Branch by having an on-the-job training for their downtown staff for one month at the North Wing branch.
Despite the stifling effects of the global pandemic which they admit “really hurt us,” they were able to get their Tagum branch operating again after four months, following the strict health protocols imposed during the lockdown with the help of their own riders. Thankfully, with the lifting of all covid protocols, business has bounced back in a big way with people now preferring to dine ‘face-to-face, although orders can still be placed for home or office delivery with Grab and FoodPanda.
Moving forward, the partners unanimously declared they would next take a well-deserved break to resume their food trips “out of nowhere” to explore more dishes from different places.