“Young Restaupreneur Shares Recipe for Success“
Enticing the Filipino palate with his brand of food and restaurants, Avin Ong uses the ingredients of the Fredley Group of Companies to revolutionise the Philippine foodservice industry.
At only 29, multi award-winner and self-made entrepreneur Avin Ong, owns and runs over 260 restaurants and café branches across the Philippines. With more than 3,000 employees serving nine separate brands of food and restaurants which include ‘New York Fries and Dips’, ‘Liang Crispy Rolls’, ‘Macao Imperial Tea’, Café Kitsuné, ‘Nabe Japanese Izakaya and Hot Pot’, ‘Mitasu Yakiniku’ and many more, Avin attributes the success of the Fredley Group of Companies (FGC) of which he is the Chairman, Founder and CEO, to the mission of the company, and that is ─ providing top quality food, service, and atmosphere through bringing to the Philippines premium and innovative foreign restaurants that live up to the quality expected of a global brand while catering to the local taste.
FGC is a master franchisor which he started in 2014 with an initial investment of 5 million pesos and his signature brand, ‘Macao Imperial Tea’. In five short years, through aggressive expansion plans, Avin opened 241 branches and made the brand the biggest milk tea player in the country. Now in his eighth year of business, FGC is valued at more than 2 billion pesos in the market.
Ambitious and Visionary
Avin has visionary plans for his company. One of the goals he plans to reach, apart from promising profit without compromising quality thereby maximising returns to his shareholders, is to be the industry’s game changer.
“FGC will be an industry benchmark for innovative restaurant concepts, and overall dining experience through exceptional products, operations, customer service, technology and employee engagement,” states Avin.
He says he has plans to be public listed by 2025. “We envision FGC to be a multi-national company – expanding its brands and businesses across Asia, providing job opportunities to thousands of people worldwide. We also believe that within 10 years, we would be able to strengthen the group’s corporate social responsibility arm through the Fredley Foundation.”
Sustainability and CSR
That Avin is big on contributing to the betterment of society is without a doubt as can be seen through the many CSR programmes he runs, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a way to say “thank you” to the heroes of the country, the company distributed 2,500 cups of milk tea to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and healthcare workers in four hospitals on March 17, 2020.
In 2021, FGC provided free COVID-19 vaccines to its franchisees, employees, as well as their families and made sure no employee suffered retrenchment during the entire duration of the pandemic.
Outside of the pandemic, the company provided full scholarships and job opportunities to the less fortunate and those with disabilities, creating a programme called “I am Different. I am Able” to influence brands to help create change to support social issues.
And on their sustainability initiatives, they are the only milk tea brand to use recyclable cups and tumblers, unlike the usual sealed plastic cups.
Avin knows his customers very well. “The primary market of FGC are the millennials, ranging from age 16 to 35, upper-middle, middle and working social classes,” he explains and that is why, “we make sure that Macao Imperial Tea drinks are always Instagram-able.”
For the young social-media savvy lifestyle generation, this makes his food and beverage concepts, and outlet offerings the establishment of choice where customers know they can get a total dining experience. But not only do these restaurants offer unique décor and a great taste, they also provide a wide menu choice. For instance, for their hot pot concept ‘Nabe Japanese Izakaya and Hot Pot’, Avin asserts, “we are the only hot pot chain in the Philippines that offers more than 21 types of soup base.”
Unknown to many, however, Avin’s illustrious profile today belies the penurious past he had when he was a child.
“My father died when I was still inside my mother’s womb,” he remembers of his childhood. “Growing up, I saw how challenging it was to be a single mother of four kids. What I learned is the value of perseverance and this is why I do not easily give up both at work and in life.”
Sharing a part of his early life, he recounts how he once used to pack and assemble hangers to help his family make a living. Then he started giving tuition at the age of seven and even dabbled in the food and beverage business as early as high school, selling fruit shakes in the wet market of Caloocan City.
After his schooling years, he became a scholar and took up Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with Specialization in Business Applications at De La Salle University and while establishing the Fredley Group of Companies (then Fredley Food and Beverages, Inc.), he enrolled himself into the MBA programme of the Ateneo de Manila University – Graduate School of Business. He was also given the opportunity to be an exchange student in ESSCA – School of Management in Budapest, Hungary.
The restaurateur believes he owes his success to his formative years and also to the experiences of his early working life.
“Because of my humble beginnings, I learnt to be a cashier, a dishwasher, a dispatcher, a server and then a restaurant manager. Not only have these experiences made me a leader who always leads by example, I also got to understand every role within the organisation and see the whole picture,” he says.
Avin has had many write-ups in the newspapers and magazines and has been given numerous awards in recognition of his outstanding successes in building brand trust, marketing distinction, social media recognition, leadership and master entrepreneurship in the Philippines and in Asia.
“Avin Ong’s meteoric rise in restauranteurship is a story of success and an inspiration to those thinking of embarking in business. Building upon a childhood idea and armed with the knowhow of early experiences, this is also a story of marketing acumen, creative strategizing and boldness. Today, Avin is Chairman, Founder and CEO of one of the fastest growing empires in the Philippines. Yet he doesn’t forget his roots and remains true to himself and to the society he has been giving back to.”
Shanggari Balakrishnan, Chief Executive Officer, MORS Group