Investors during the Off the Hook franchise signing ceremony on Friday Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf News

Dubai: A group of 11 Filipino expats pooled their resources to acquire the first franchise of a Filipino-owned homegrown chain of seafood restaurants in the UAE.

“This is significant as we are defying the COVID-19 pandemic and we are catering to the growing trend of concept food and restaurant business in the country,” Rolly Brucales, managing partner of Off The Hook (OTH), told Gulf News during a franchise signing ceremony on Friday.

Rolly Brucales, managing partner of Off The Hook Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf News

OTH started as a small business venture in 2016 by eight Filipino friends to augment their income as expats and “to plant their roots in the land they now call their second home”. After five years, OTH expanded to nine branches across Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The 10th branch, which will open in the first week of October in Sharjah under the trade name Chef Signature Restaurant, will be managed by 11 Filipino entrepreneurs, who were inspired by Brucales and his partners to also venture in the food business. The 10th OTH branch is also the first franchise of a fully Filipino-owned, home-grown restaurant – as opposed to the usual business strategy of bringing in popular brands from the Philippines to the UAE.

Inspiring Filipino entrepreneurs

Brucales said the OTH franchise will inspire more Filipinos “to be bold enough to venture into business”. He added: “Only in June this year, we celebrated the opening of our ninth branch at Ibn Batutal Mall, and today [Friday] is another special day as we embark another milestone in our success story – the first OTH franchise in Sharjah.”

He said Filipinos should pool their resources to start a business. “In today’s fast-paced environment, a ‘do-it-alone’ approach is not the best strategy for growth. Collaboration and strategic partnerships are fundamental to improving business outcomes. And by God’s grace, we are happy to not just collaborate but also openly embrace Chef Signature Restaurant to be part of the OTH family.”

Further expansion

Brucales said OTH will also have future branches in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. “As we expand our business, a central commissary will also be built as it is essential to maintain consistency in the kitchen and supply management. Our central commissary will be a tool for greater efficiency, product testing and development. A new space to save on staff costs, as well as food costs,” he added.

Jolivette Dela Cruz, one of the 11 investors in Sharjah, said two more branches will be opened in the emirate next year. “We have signed to open three OTH franchises in Sharjah, with the first one to open in Al Nahda, early next month. This is a very exciting business venture as we are not only showcasing Filipino hospitality but we are also serving all nationalities with tasty and sumptuous fresh food. We will maintain the same high standards of OTH that serve ‘real’ seafood, with no or minimally-processed ingredients while ensuring strong customer loyalty and culinary innovation for continued success,” she added.

Jolivette Dela Cruz, an investor in the Sharjah franchise, at the signing ceremony Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf News

Meanwhile, Bobbie Carella, chairman of the Philippine Business Council–Dubai and Northern Emirates, said she is optimistic more Filipinos will venture in businesses in the UAE. She said: “We will provide them with utmost support and guidance, as we shape the road ahead towards our common goals and shared vision.”