Welcome to our fourth installment of Franchisee Spotlight! Today, we are featuring a couple that is the epitome of 'dreams do come true.' The spotlight is on Dwight Tondares and Chiclet Tondares! While we do have franchisees abroad, the Tondareses are the first Philippine-based franchisees to successfully open franchises abroad. Usually, the franchisees for international stores are also based in the country where they are operating the franchise. This is why what this couple has achieved is no small feat! At 19 Philippine stores and 3 Hong Kong stores in just 6 years into their franchisee journey, they truly are among the most prolific.
Why Potato Corner?
We were Potato Corner addicts for the longest time! Since college!
Chiclet Tondares posing with Spudster at their Walter Mart outlet
How did you get started with your franchise?
It began in 2012, when my husband Dwight decided to leave his job at a prestigious universal bank after 15 years of service.
When we ventured to apply for a franchise, we learned that Potato Corner – whose products we have long been patronizing – was looking for a franchisee at Harrison Plaza. We had 2 non-competing food carts at Harrison Plaza at that time; our letter of intent got noticed. Fortunately as well, Dwight’s retirement pay was enough for us to immediately pay the franchise package and the security deposit Harrison Plaza required.
While we were preparing for our Harrison Plaza branch, we had the opportunity to meet with the leasing manager of SM Sucat, from whom we learned of a space available for a food cart.
So, we opened Potato Corner Harrison Plaza on March 1, 2012 and, 30 days later, Potato Corner SM Sucat.
The Tondareses and their partner receiving their Highest Single Day Gross Sales award at Potato Corner's 25th Anniversary Party
What is the most rewarding part about being a Potato Corner Hong Kong franchisee?
When we started to see long lines of customers in our Hong Kong branches-- of mostly locals! Also, the attention Potato Corner Hong Kong got from Hong Kong food bloggers being followed on the social media, food magazines and, lately, on television.
Dwight Tondares receiving their Store Sales Award for 2015 for their Shell Balagtas branch
Trophies that the Tondareses received at Potato Corner's 2016 Franchise Roadshow
What piece of advice can you give someone who wishes to franchise Potato Corner?
To focus on a vision,
to search for change,
to exploit it as an opportunity.
The Tondareses with our CEO Jose Magsaysay, partners, and stakeholders at their Hong Kong branch inauguration
We are amazed with how you have opened so many branches not only in the Philippines, but also in Hong Kong. To those who are based here but wish to open a franchise abroad, or for OFW's who wish to open a branch here while staying abroad, what would be your advice to them?
Look for a local partner and look for a place that's investor friendly. Do your research.
We initially looked at Singapore but got discouraged by lack of a local partner.
We also looked at Thailand, but discontinued our interest again for lack of a local partner. Moreover, we did not have the looks of Peach Pachara, who opened his first store in Thailand in March 2016.
We found Hong Kong to be very foreign investor friendly. With Ryan Maniago and Melissa Caluag – Hong Kong permanent residents whom we have known for 22 years – as co-incorporators, we were able to register a corporation with the business registration regulations.
The registration process was easy–we just signed on downloadable forms full of Chinese characters. The registration fees were affordable, too. Our registration as a licensed food factory with the food and environmental hygiene department, however, required a little bit more time.
We also personally spent time in Hong Kong tasting potential competitor potato based products. We spent time validating the superiority of Potato Corner flavored fries over potentially competitive potato based products. And we really found out that nothing beats the taste of Potato Corner.
The Tondareses ushering people in at the opening day of their Hong Kong outlet.
The first thing that people are curious about upon finding out that we have a Filipino franchisee who opened a store in Hong Kong is the language barrier. How did you overcome this? What are your tips for people who may encounter language barriers in opening their franchise?
It's integral to find a consultant or business solutions firm. Hong Kong became a reality after we contracted a Hong Kong consultant, Mr. Edmond Kam.
It was an unprecedented move in Potato Corner history, as none of us owners is able to engage in active management of the store -- unlike the usual practice among franchisees here and even in other countries.
Ms. Kam was of great assistance in overcoming challenges we faced – particularly during the first month of operation. He helped us look for crew, which we struggled with, despite our willingness to pay above-average salaries. Now, our present crew is now sufficiently trained, ready and able for deployment to our succeeding stores.
Secondly, he helped break the language barriers between the crew and us.
Third, he hired sa full-time or permanent tri-lingual (English, Mandarin & Cantonese) cashiers.
The Tondareses together with their co-incorporators and crew at their Hong Kong outlet.
People are sometimes curious as to whether doing business as husband and wife is good. How has it been so far for you and your wife?
Dwight: Doing business with my wife is no different from being a husband at home. I always have the last say in all matters, which is "YES, MY LOVE!" Sa lahat ng utos!!!
Could you share one quote you rely on always for motivation?
Business opportunities are like buses. There is always another one coming
BONUS: The Tondareses were also among our featured franchisees in our 25th anniversary commemorative video! You can check out snippets of the couple in this video, as well as our other exemplary franchisees as well.
*Content was extracted from a speech Ms. Chiclet made about her experiences as a Potato Corner franchisee, as well as their franchisee interviews. Contents have been translated into English from Taglish.