When John Paulo Juaneza thought of opening a restaurant that offered fried chicken as just a side dish, little did he know that the chicken would become the main offering as it instantly captivated the Ilonggo palate.
“When my wife went to Korea with her parents, she got the idea of starting a food business here in Iloilo from Korea’s famous toast business. Then, I asked her if it’s a good idea to include fried chicken as a side dish,” narrated Juaneza. “My wife Cloudine helped me out on the designing and construction of our stores,” John Paulo added.
Located inside Iloilo City’s Central Philippine University (CPU), Abraham’s Chicken & Toast established its first branch serving Korean food with an Ilonggo twist. It became a big hit as soon as it opened, captivating customers with crunchy chicken bites that come in a delicious array of flavors like Korean soy garlic, Korean sweet chili and honey lemon, herbed parmesan, snowy sour cream, honey cajun, hickory pineapple, cheesy jalapeno and more. Customers lined up to have a taste of their offerings, from students of CPU to professionals and families.
What they did not anticipate was, after about three months from their opening, the pandemic would happen, sending everyone to an uncertain course. But instead of stopping them from pursuing their dreams, the situation pushed the couple further to leverage their sense of resiliency and sustainability to their business, which made them emerge as the most loved flavored chicken in town.
A sweet success amidst the challenging times
While their market debut was successful because of the Ilonggo community’s warm welcome, Abraham’s beginnings were not a walk in the park.
Juaneza shared, “It was a challenge since I come from the oil and gas business. In the oil business, they go directly to your tanks. If you leave it for one year, the products don’t rot. They don’t spoil. In the food business, you need to sell them on time. You need to find suppliers who can meet your demand and make sure everything is fresh to sell to people. But the most difficult part is probably maintaining customers and getting them to keep coming back and recommend it to others.”
Despite their adjustments due to the COVID-19 crisis, they were no match to the challenges it brought. The quarantine restrictions alone heavily disrupted their operations and impacted their sales. The four-month old store had to close for a while to pivot and find ways to stay afloat. “We had to adapt to e-commerce, which served as our main platform for a year because dine-ins were not allowed,” recalled Juaneza.
“We also focused on maintaining the quality of our food, which means being meticulous – all the way from choosing the best ingredients, to learning the optimal marination time and knowing the optimal cooking temperature, up to creating the best flavors for our fried chicken.”
Little by little, their sales increased until they had enough income to sustain their household again, help their employees and save up for the future.
More than that, Abraham’s Chicken & Toast was honored recently as the Icon of Progress at the Golden Grab Awards 2023 and awarded as the Most Loved Flavored Chicken on GrabFood, which is a testament to their commitment and perseverance in providing the finest food and quality service, making them the customers’ top favorite.
Looking forward to a brighter prospect
With its recognition, Juaneza is ready to spread its wings further, continuously discovering new innovations to improve its products and service, opening more branches and even entering into franchising so that more people can enjoy their Ilonggo-approved, Korean-inspired food. Abraham’s Chicken & Toast latest offerings include Chicken Katsu Bowls: supreme cheese delight, katsudon rice bowl, curry queen, teriyaki osaka, Chinese style sweet chili and golden ala king that will surely make your holidays more fun and memorable.
“We were really thankful that SM City Iloilo called us up. They invited us to open a branch here in SM City Iloilo in September 2022, which is really good for our business,” said Juaneza. “We all know SM is good. It is the largest corporation in the country, so it attracts people. We need people to see us. We need people to recognize us. That’s why SM is the place for Abraham’s.”
Aside from being in a strategic location, Juaneza values the support SM extends to Abraham’s in terms of marketing and promotions. “Hopefully in the future, by God’s grace, we can expand to other SM malls,” said Juaneza.