BEING young and single in the food industry is no problem for someone whose passion is cooking and serving great food.
It does not hurt either that the parents and siblings of Jary Rie Eliseo Olivares are extremely supportive of her venturing into the food business, considering she comes from a family of medical professionals.
Jary began building her budding restaurant “empire” two years ago when she was just 25.
She is, by profession, a physical therapist who, early on was helping plan to build a hospital to be owned and operated by her family in their home province of Laguna. But her love for food, specifically Korean cuisine, led her to open and manage three restaurant brands: WGM Café and Pizzeria, Oppa Samgyeopsal and Jeju Bingsu & Dessert House.
The oldest of four children, Jary said her parents gave her a cash gift that served as the seed money for her first restaurant. She then went about experimenting on items that would be a regular part of the restaurant’s menu. All this time, she was talking to friends and local produce growers to source her food supply and ingredients.
Jary said she loves to eat out and observed the kind of food locals in Laguna ate. She saw there were no restaurants that served Korean food and desserts and, since she loved Korean cuisine, she decided to venture into that particular line of business.
Before she opened her first WGM Café, she came up with items that were going to become WGM Café’s best sellers. These included her pork tapa with rice, her four-cheese pizza (topped with parmesan, gorgonzola, mozzarella and white cheese) and four flavors of parfait—Manhattan, Cookies and Cream, Strawberry
Yogurt and Matcha (Green Tea)—generously served in towering parfait glasses and chockful of ice cream, whipped cream, nuts and fresh fruits. The items are all very affordable—the parfait is P155 each—in sharp contrast to the undoubtedly expensive one-of-a-kind decoration of her restaurants.
WGM Café—a Korean cum New York inspired coffee shop and restaurant—also offers chicken wings, rice meals, sandwiches, milkshakes and milk teas, pizza and pasta.
Jary claims she did not undergo any formal training before venturing into the restaurant business. All she did was attend a three-day lecture on how to cook pasta and rice meals. She took a Barista class, as well, and watched tutorials on YouTube.
Once she decided to venture into the restaurant business, she immersed herself into planning and research, using her creativity to come up with tantalizing dishes and desserts. She also listened intently to the advice of her father, a practical and successful real-estate businessman himself.
“My mom who is a dentist helps me and, when it comes to ideas, my dad mentors me,” she said.
Her business acumen was apparent early on. As a child, Jary sold stickers and cards for the popular street tex game her friends played in school. She even sold gulaman and ice candy at the age of 10.
Today, her six restaurants are valued at a cool P1 million each. She is thinking of franchising to serve the good food her Laguna-based customers are enjoying so more Filipinos can enjoy the delicious treats she serves every day.
Her first restaurant, WGM Café, opened in May 2016 in Pacita, Laguna. Five months later, she launched the second branch in Biñan. A third branch is in Cabuyao.
2016 was the same year she was supposed to go to America to work as a physical therapist. She passed the state board exam in Florida and could actually practice there if she wants to.
“The day WGM Café opened, people flocked to the restaurant. I was in shock,” Jary said. “I did all sorts of work inside the restaurant, including cashiering. I even asked my brothers to bus tables, especially when people were lined up, waiting to get inside.”
Jary serves authentic Korean dishes in Oppa Samgyeopsal, occupying the top floor of the building she rents from her father. The restaurant offers unlimited samgyeopsal, and the popular spicy ramyun. The feast includes thin slices of meat with bits of green on the side and paired with a steaming bowl of soup. The unlimited samgyeopsal costs P299 per set, which includes thinly sliced pork belly, lettuce, seasoned bean sprouts, kimchi and sesame oil. One can dine on unlimited chadolbaegi for P399.
In August 2018 Jary opened the Jeju Bingsu & Dessert House, offering desserts, crepes and the famous bingsu, flavored shaved ice cream popular in Korea. Myeong Dong (matcha with sweet red beans and slivered almonds) and Jeju (mangoes and cream with almonds) can be had for a mere P159 for regular size and P259 for double size. Extra special flavors are also available: Gumi special—chocolate overloaded with brownies, coco crunch and ice cream; and Gangnam special—peaches and cheesecake bingsu at P199 for regular size and P299 for double size.
The best-selling mangoes and cream crepe is a must for only P99. Just add P39 for your choice of ice-cream toppings. Jary considers her six restaurants her babies.
Aside from expansion, Jary plans to branch out outside her hometown to let other people experience her restaurants. She now thinks of opening the three restaurant brands for franchising.
Like all start-ups, Jary had to go through a learning cycle.There wasa time when she told her staff to close for one day so they could make corrections.
At the outset, Jary felt she had to be present at the restaurant all day, to carefully monitor everything. She became the manager and the cashier simultaneously. Today, her six restaurants have their own managers with at least 30 employees in all branches.
Today, Jary can relax. All her hard work has paid off. Not only have customers made the three restaurants popular places to eat and hang out with friends and family; the province of Laguna has also validated Jary Olivares’s business venture.
In March 2018 the WGM Café and Pizzeria was given the “Best Trendy Café Shop” title by the Golden Globe Annual Awards for Business Excellence in Laguna.
During the Netizens’ Best Choice Awards, Oppa Samgyeopsal was recognized as the “Best Authentic Korean Cuisine Restaurant” in Manila after being nominated online and garnered more than 10,000 stars on review ratings. It was also given an award for being the “Top Choice Authentic Korean Cuisine Restaurant” in Laguna by the Smart Business
In explaining her commercial success, Jary said, “I invest the money immediately. My liquidity goes to branching out.”
Jary continues to dream. Nowadays, she dreams of becoming a franchisor someday. Her three restaurant brands are proof she will not make just castles in the air.