Franchisee Spotlight: Joseph Umali (CEZ Victoria Inc.)

May 6, 2018

Welcome, dear friends, to our first ever Franchisee Spotlight! Potato Corner is a brand that soared to the top and achieved success after success thanks to its hardworking franchisees. With over 1000 stores worldwide, we really have our franchisors and franchisees to thank for all the international milestones we have achieved.

These days, the concept of a franchisee is no longer this stereotypical business wizard who knows what to do all the time. We take care of the “knowing what to do” part by streamlining and simplifying things for our franchisees as much as we can. And we guide our franchisees to the best of our abilities and knowhow, in order to ensure continuous success. 

We have seen a lot of franchisees who originally did not come from the food industry rise to the top, and though clichéd, we have seen people from all walks of life make a big impact to our company. This is why we thought of doing a series that will highlight the best of the best among our franchisees. We also wanted to show our readers, that anyone with a strong will and a willingness to work hard can make it to the top with Potato Corner. 

Our first franchisee spotlight is on Joseph Umali of CEZ Victoria Inc., who hails from Mindanao. With almost 16 years of experience, and 16 stores and counting, there are probably a lot of things that you guys would like to ask him. 

 Why Potato Corner?

We wanted something new….a food franchise that has yet to be discovered and loved by the public and one that is “first of its kind” in the food business. Likewise, we wanted a product that caters to all…kids, adults, and young at heart.

How did you get started with your franchise?

We were looking for a food franchise that we could bring and introduce in our hometown, Cagayan de Oro City. Then sometime in 2002, we came across a business magazine. At the last few pages of said magazine is a list of start-up businesses for newbies. One of the food franchise listed was POTATO CORNER. Upon reading the short write-up and description of POTATO CORNER (the product and initial investment), we immediately got in touch with the company listed therein (Cinco Holdings) and set an appointment with Mr. Jose Magsaysay Jr.  And as the saying goes, “the rest is history”.

At Centrio Mall 3F Branch   

What were your memorable experiences from when you were starting out your franchise?

Aching legs – from watching over our 2 PC outlets from opening to closing of mall (10am to 10pm). Observing each and every move of our crew , listening (and correcting)  every word that our crew says to each customer. And of course having to endure the monotone of mall jingles!

And, literally having to do everything –  preparation & delivery of stocks, outlet opening and closing routines, preparing payroll, accounting, auditing, HR, business tax & licenses, repair & maintenance. 

What challenges you the most as a franchisee?

As a franchisee, we consider ourselves very much a part of PC and so we see to it that everything we do and say complements the entire PC establishment. And that includes of course our personnel, specifically the front-liners….our service crew. With this end in view, we do everything possible to equip and educate our people on the basics of their job, provide them with the right tools and means in order for them to perform their job correctly (and comfortably, if possible).

And since our service crew are merely human, they are bound to make mistakes, missteps (intentional or unintentional). So, here lies the biggest challenge for every franchisee. We can set policies and controls on pilferage, inventory yields, product  and service quality, tardiness or absences but we have no hold on what the service crew is capable of doing in front of the customer, such as: a rude or sarcastic word, a sharp look in the eye or just a mere heavy face. All our efforts in upholding the integrity of our business comes crushing down with just one careless act of a single service crew.

Receiving A Loyalty Award At the Potato Corner 25th Anniversary Party  

What is the most rewarding part about being a Potato Corner franchisee?

Being a newbie in the food cart business with an unheard-of brand (at least in our place – CDO back in 2002), people asked us what our business is. When we told them “POTATO CORNER”, they were at a loss, unable to find a connection between the two words. “POTATO CORNER” back then seemed too difficult to utter because people would then respond, “Ha? Ano yan?”  

We could distinctly remember introducing our Potato Corner to a friend and he just sarcastically laughed off our explanation.

But times have changed and things have just turned out right and great for us. People are now the ones asking us, “How can we get a Potato Corner franchise?” That indeed is the sweetest  reward we could get after the struggle we had to go thru when we first started out.

What piece of advice can you give someone who wishes to franchise Potato Corner?

Although Potato Corner nowadays is synonymous with SUCCESS particularly in the food cart business, a prospective franchisee must understand that, like any other ventures, Potato Corner is only one side of the equation. He or she still has to do his/her share in order to succeed: Hard Work, Patience, Good Business Sense.

At the Potato Corner Mindanao Quality Management Program 

A lot of people are interested in franchising in Mindanao, but are not sure about how the logistics works. What can you share from your experiences to these people?

Doing a Potato Corner business in Mindanao is much easier now than it has ever been.  Whereas before, everything must come from Manila – stocks/supplies, equipment, the cart/kiosk itself, manpower training, franchisor support, supervision, monitoring, etc. – today all these are already available in Mindanao (Davao or Cagayan de Oro).

There are a lot of people who are wondering as to whether it’s a good idea to explore more remote locations in VisMin to place kiosks in. From your experiences in running many branches across Mindanao, what advice can you impart to these people?

I think it’s not the nearness, accessibility or remoteness of your outlet that will make or break your business. Regardless of location, some basic factors must still be looked into: pedestrian traffic, social activities and economic condition in the locality, to name a few. But then, even if all indicators is a “GO”, there is still no 100% guarantee of a “Hit”. And so, for those who “got what it takes”, why not go for it and find out for yourself the possibilities of PC? As the saying goes, “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water”.  

*Answers have been edited for brevity