Restaurant Series – Opening a Restaurant in Los Angeles

My main focus for the last 5 months has been our family restaurant business, Ninong’s. If you’ve been following along on Instagram or Twitter you’ll know that the wheels on this project started turning in March of 2017 when we first saw the space. 10 months later here we are, so close to finishing I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! Seeing as my 2018 word for the year is BUILD I thought I’d share with you one of the business that I have built and plan to continue to build this year – Ninong’s.

The next 2 weeks of posts are going to be focused on opening a restaurant, specifically in LA county. I’m going to share with you what products we use, why we use them, how we plan our menu, tips that I’ve learned along the way, and I’m going to get as detailed as I can without boring the heck out of you guys.

So, I guess I’ll get into it with an introduction to the series. I want to start this off by explaining a few personal observations and opinions.

  1. The restaurant business is HARD. It is, hands down, THE hardest business I’ve ever ventured in. You work long hours, the industry is extremely competitive, and pricing strategy is not straight forward. That’s just the tip of the iceberg people!
  2. The restaurant business is EXCITING. Oh man, I need to tell you about the adrenaline rush you feel when you’re on the cook line or when you get an rush of people! Your 8 hour day feels like 4. It’s so exciting! I live for those moments when you feel your team in sync, the bond of trust flowing, and the orders flying out of the kitchen. There’s nothing like it!
  3. The restaurant business is BRUTAL. It’s safe to say that any customer oriented business is brutal. Everyone is a critic. And for those of us that have a thin skin 🙋🏻‍♀️ UH OH, not good. But specifically in the restaurant business, even more specifically Filipino restaurant business, there is a shift that is happening. There are pros and cons to this shift. The pros are that Filipino food is finally becoming a cuisine that people are interested in trying. Fellow Filipinos aren’t the only ones walking into Filipino establishments, other cultures are and that’s a beautiful thing! But the con to Filipino restaurants is it’s always compared to “mom’s cooking.” And let me just say, “mom’s cooking” can never be replaced with our cooking. I’ll just leave it at that. I think this might be true of other cultural restaurants.
  4. The restaurant business is PERSONAL. I think this is true not just for me (my restaurant happens to be very personal since we are family owned and operated) but for most cooks and chefs. Cooking is a very personal interaction with a customer. Everyone that cooks will cook with passion and heart, it translates into the food. No matter if you are cooking your own original recipe or recreating a recipe there is a lot of TLC that goes into cooking.

Stay tuned for the rest of this restaurant series! Regardless if you’re interested in the same industry or not I hope that you’ll be able to take some key things away to apply to your own businesses. Either that or I hope it’ll give you a glimpse of what it’s like to have to start a huge endeavor like this!


Please like & share:

Unique LA 2017 Holiday Market

Unique LA’s 2017 Holiday Market is officially upon us. Every year I do this show I find another way to challenge myself.

First couple years was just CO Creative Cartel, then Ninong’s joins the scene with a table, then Ninong’s gets a booth. Last year was the first year where I feel that both my businesses really kind of got its sweet spot of where it belongs at Unique LA. But I’m crazy and decided to push the envelope all while testing my sanity lol!

This year, CO Creative Cartel is still sticking to my custom table scape that I’ve had the last 2 shows. It has worked really well for us in the past, and our goal is to sell of our inventory as CO Creative Cartel is pivoting directions. Ninong’s, on the other hand, is going out on a limb. This year, we’re going to prepare food onsite. EEP! We’re going to be selling our Pork Belly Sliders, Ensaymada Grilled Cheese, Iced Barako Coffee, Ube Milk Tea, Mango Juice, Calamansi Juice, and 2 of our signature pancakes – Ube and Buko! We’re also going to be selling pastries as we usually do, so I feel like this show is going to be extremely hectic.

If you’re in SoCal come see both CO Creative Cartel and Ninong’s at the Unique LA 2017 Holiday Market this weekend 12/2/17-12/3/17 at the California Market Center!


Please like & share:

How Ninong’s Grew our Instagram Following Organically

I wish I knew more about social media. Getting older, it makes it harder for me to keep up with the new trends out there. There’s always something new – a new app, an new upgrade, new features and changes being made to social media platforms.

During my live stream with Heather last week they asked me how Ninong’s grew our Instagram following. Full disclosure, it’s not like our following grew overnight. But! They’re organic followers which means real people, real likes, real comments.

So, why did we choose Instagram? Well for one, Ninong’s is on almost every popular social media outlet. You name it – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc. But Instagram is where we saw the most engagement, it’s where we got the most traffic, it’s where we can control the conversation. Not to mention, 59% of the users on Instagram are our key demographic.

Why don’t we do all social media channels? For Ninong’s, it’s important for our brand message to be personal. Our brand story focuses on the idea of a family business/restaurant and inviting people to our “house” to eat. When you dine at our establishment, you’re eating recipes created by my aunt, my mom, my husband, etc. Our social media presence had to be us, not anyone else. Instagram allowed us to do that. We did try to do all the popular social media outlets, but because we’re a small operation we were forced to realize that it takes a lot of time and energy to do social media right. It turned out to be the biggest blessing in disguise. When we decided that focusing on 1 social media channel and doing it well was going to be our focus we saw consistent growth. We’re averaging about 20 new followers a week. I know it’s great to have a presence on all outlets. But don’t forget, if you don’t put shareable, useful, relatable, and authentic content on each channel then don’t do it. Don’t put 50% effort into something, you gotta go all in. 100%. That’s an entrepreneur’s golden rule with anything we do.

Now that we figured out why, let’s figure out what.

What did we do to grow our reach on Instagram? Well first, we had to identify our signature product and ask questions about it. This isn’t just beneficial for social media, it’s important for your business period. I know you want to cater to everyone, that you want your product or service to have a wide reach. We wanted that too. But that’s where we made a mistake. Cast a smaller net, really get detailed about your target market. The wider reach will come, trust me.

So, for our restaurant’s sake, our signature product is Ube Pancakes. Like I said, don’t just identify your product. Figure out why it should be your signature item. For us:

  1. The color is unique. Most people have never seen a purple pancake before.
  2. The flavor is very different, unlike anything we’ve ever tasted.
  3. Not many people were serving it at the time, let alone in our area.
  4. Our business is a cafe and pancakes fit very well in our business model.
  5. It’s the perfect catalyst to tell people about Filipino food and culture.
  6. It’s familiar to all cultures, not just our own. Since our mission is to share our family’s Filipino recipes and dishes with the world (not just other Filipinos) this was the perfect product to push us into the direction we’ve always dreamed of.

Okay that’s done, now what do we post? People love behind the scenes stuff. They love to see the people and the process that makes the end product. We post raw ingredients like eggs, the mixers whipping some icing, etc. Make your followers feel like they’re an exclusive club by letting them be the first to know that you have new products. Or even, show them the struggle of being an entrepreneur. Authenticity and transparency is key. People can see right through you on social media. Don’t pretend, be you – you are why people will be interested in what you have to offer.

Another suggestion is to inform your audience. Tell them who you are, what makes you different. Mix it up! We don’t just post your signature product over and over without some variety. We try to post as regularly as possible.

Last suggestion is repost your followers! We actually did this out of desperation because we couldn’t think of anything to share, but our customers and followers loved it! I think that reposting from another user just allows an unbiased account of our product.

It’s that simple! The main thing you want to think about is looking at it from a viewer’s perspective instead of the content creator’s perspective. Who is look at you? Who do you want to attract? Who would need what you have to offer? Create content that would be useful for them.

When you post, remember to always provide value. Don’t just post to promote. Show your audience and potential tribe that you care about them. Share a little bit about yourself (this is your brand story), inform them about your products and why it’s different from the rest, share insight, and share your journey!


Please like & share: