Dubai: They started as teammates and supporters at different sports tournaments across the UAE. Working in different fields - including accounting, nursing, business and human resources – their friendship evolved beyond sports, leading them to operate a chain of 12 restaurants across the country.
“We started pooling our resources in 2016 and put up a small business venture to augment our income as Filipino expatriates,” Rolly Brucales, one of the seven Filipino friends and managing partner of Off The Hook (OTH) Seafood Restaurant, told Gulf News during the recent opening of their 12th branch in Manar Mall, Ras Al Khaimah.
“Our first branch opened in the same year in Abu Dhabi. Six years later, we now have a total of 12 branches in the UAE – five in Abu Dhabi, four in Dubai, and one each in Al Ain, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. We actually just opened two branches in the last two months – the RAK branch opened a month after we inaugurated a restaurant at Dubai Festival City in June.”
He said the key to their success could be summarised in one word - teamwork.
“We all love sports like bowling and basketball – and this team spirit was the same mantra we adopted when we decided to venture in business,” added Brucales.
“Like in sports, teamwork was needed to succeed in business. It helped us to overcome the challenges we faced in the first few months and years of our operations. Only a couple of us had business backgrounds; others were working in the health industry but we found strength in each other,” added Brucales, who credited his partners Pol Ryan Hernandez, Angie Brucales, Marjorie Sac, Apple Hernandez, Erick Olete and Bert Garde for the success of OTH.
Each of them chipped in various sums of money, culled from their personal savings. Each was also assigned a particular task – one worked in accounts, others in customer relations, front desk, kitchen management and operations.
Brucales noted: “We were all new in the food industry but we complemented each other. No one also dominated in making choices as we have always relied on our collective decisions.”
“We have also continued throwing our support to sports and community events, including a Filipina artist who exhibited her marine conservation-themed artworks at our branch in Ibn Battuta Mall last year,” he added.
Inspired by friends
From seven founding partners, the group invited other investors to open franchises in Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujariah.
OTH opened its first franchised branch in Sharjah last year under the trade name, Chef Signature, which is now being managed by 11 Filipino entrepreneurs, who were inspired by Brucales and his partners to also venture in the food business.
Alvin Aliviano, a radiographer by profession and a permanent fixture at bowling tournaments in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, also organised his friends and team mates to open their own OTH franchise in RAK, under a trade name that represents their passion for bowling – Bowls Avenue Cafeteria and Restaurant.
He told Gulf News: “We are composed of ten-pin bowlers from Filipino Bowling Club and our camaraderie have extended beyond the bowling lanes as we are now planning of opening our second franchise in RAK.”
“We also rely on teamwork. Individually, it’s a big challenge to run a business – and we are not only talking about financial investments but also running the daily operations. But things become more manageable when you have partners. It’s like in a game, it’s always boring when you play alone,” added Aliviano.
Brucales said the 13th branch of OTH is expected to open in Fujairah this month. They are also in the final works of opening their first branch outside the UAE – in Doha soon – and also looking at expanding in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in the near future.