Max’s Group Rides Out The Pandemic Bumps, Spurred By Steady International Performance

Max's Group Inc.

Max’s Group Inc. (MGI), the largest casual dining restaurant group in the Philippines, has had its fair share of wins and challenges over the past year. Reflecting on the after-effects of a global pandemic that has rocked the worldwide retail dining industry, the company remains resilient and focused on its goal of delighting customers all over the world with fresh, genuine, quality food and a great dining experience in different formats. This positive outlook and response is buoyed by the group’s steady performance and increased expansion in international markets that saw positive net income throughout 2020 and, with the exception of last year, annual double-digit revenue growth since 2003, when the company first started international franchising.

A proud exporter of beloved Filipino brands, MGI takes immense privilege in giving homegrown products an international stage to showcase the local food scene and bring it closer to diners all over the world—from the real and authentic Filipino cuisine of cultural flagbearer Max’s Restaurant to the universally-appealing menus of innovative New York-style pizza chain Yellow Cab Pizza Co., affordable quality Japanese food brand Teriyaki Boy, the Western-inspired meat shop Sizzlin’ Steak, feel-good homey restaurant Pancake House, and grilled chicken expert Max’s All About Chicken. To date, MGI International’s store total is up to 60 operating branches across North America, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific regions; six new stores have opened since 2020, with a couple more lined up later in the year.

When asked what factors led to MGI’s positive international performance and growth, William E. Rodgers, Director of MGI International said: “The geographical diversity of the markets helped us mitigate the risks of the pandemic and balance the business between regions so we could remain consistently profitable. Our partners also showed tremendous resilience in keeping business afloat and our lean International team structure enabled us to adapt quickly in managing costs in proportion to revenue, ensuring that we could weather the storm and give our franchisees the support they deserve.”

The group also credits each country’s COVID-19 response and how its franchisees worked quickly to meet the needs and demands of customers during the height of the pandemic and as each area went through its own stages of lockdowns and regulation. Kyungmin “Kay” Lee, General Manager for MGI International said: “Customer behaviours differ in each country and region, requiring an intimate understanding of their unique nuances. Having that on-ground insight derived from partnering with local operators augmented by MGI’s aggregated expertise in operating multiple markets and managing global brands makes for a recipe of success.”

That is why MGI International strategically chose to expand through master franchising, working with strong local partners who have a firm understanding of the market. This was especially essential when dealing with the uncertainties of a global pandemic. Delivery, for instance, played a key role for the Asia Pacific market and helped it become the best performing region for MGI, recording double-digit growth in 2020 vs 2019. In the Middle East, MGI partnered with a local service provider to streamline orders via social media and utilize marketing tools to assist in customer retention. Delivery has always been essential to MGI operations, even before the pandemic, and efforts are continuously being made to create a seamless system that can be replicated with all its franchisees.

In North America, diners had a preference for take-away options but also, when dine-in was suspended during the peak of the pandemic, Max’s Restaurant franchises in Glendale, Chula Vista, and San Diego quickly pivoted by introducing an outdoor patio setup that contributed significantly to total sales. The Glendale store also introduced a food truck concept to expand its trade area, allowing the brand to engage local communities in a more agile, intimate fashion.

While the future remains unclear, reports from Forbes, Restaurant Business, and QSR Media indicate that customers will eventually come back once they feel safe. North America has already witnessed rapid recovery in sales since the local government accelerated its vaccination program, and the same has been seen in the United Kingdom where the food and drink industry is projected to grow 12% in 2021. Looking ahead, Rodgers notes that all markets in MGI’s current portfolio show promise in terms of future growth and the company has its sights set on other major cities in North America and many untapped countries in both Asia Pacific and Europe.

“We have not yet harnessed their full business potential. The focus remains on our existing franchise operators and helping each partner expand their store network through strong supply chain, operations, and marketing support,” said Rodgers.

Added MGI President & Chief Executive Officer Robert Ramon F. Trota, “We embrace how Filipino culture is among the most global in the world. Even as we proudly import such iconic international franchises as Krispy Kreme and Jamba Juice, we are equally delighted by the opportunity to make our uniquely Filipino brand of hospitality and taste equally famous across different markets.”

One thing’s for certain. MGI International will continue to play a key role in the company’s primed renewal and growth in 2021 and beyond.

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About Nonoy Taclino

Nonoy Taclino is a pioneer blogger and social media manager in Iloilo, with 15 years of experience under his belt.

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