Not many people are familiar with the name of Edgar J. Sia II but a lot of folks certainly know a lot about Mang Inasal, the barbecue fast food chain made famous by its grilled chicken on a stick and their 'eat-all-you-can' rice.
Edgar is the man responsible for Mang Inasal's inspiring success and has transformed this unassuming entrepreneur into the poster boy of modern Ilonggo cuisine. Educated as an architect, this Iloilo native first dabbled in business at the age of 20 with a variety of ventures that culminated into Mang Inasal, his dream of the Philippines' first real fast food barbecue company.
Using Php800,000 in seed money, Edgar opened his first store at a shopping mall parking lot in Iloilo City on December 2003. His main offering was grilled chicken marinated in vinegar and spices paired with unlimited rice, a real draw to a budget-conscious public.
The eating public did not disappoint and by adopting a fast food concept Mang Inasal sales grew to a rapid pace. Buoyed by their initial success, Edgar opened the chain for franchising in 2005 and the rest is history as Mang Inasal outlets sprouted everywhere like the proverbial mushroom.
One of the biggest business stories last year was the acquisition of 70 percent of the 7-year old company by Jollibee Food Corp. for a cool Php3 billion. Edgar's company, Injap Investments, retains 30% ownership. At present there are 306 branches all over the country and provides work for around 8,000 people.
Aside from providing much-needed employment opportunities, Mang Inasal also locally sources its ingredients, particularly the uling (charcoal), kalamansi (native lime), spices and bamboo sticks.
Apart from its original four outlets in Iloilo, there is now a Mang Inasal in almost every major shopping mall across the nation. As proof of its reach, there is an open-air Mang Inasal just a few meters away from the famous White Beach in Boracay. The chain is aiming at opening 500 stores by 2012.
The 30-something entrepreneur attributes the crucial ingredients of Mang Inasal's success to the distinct way Filipino stamp-grill with charcoal, rice wrapped in banana leaves, a marinade concocted from local spices and herbs, and bamboo sticks for skewers. Edgar adds that every one of their establishments was designed to create an ambience that encourages kinamot, the term for eating with the hands.
We agree with Edgar when he says that these combine "to bring about a feeling of nostalgia for tradition, culture, and most of all, home." And home is where the successful businessman has stayed: "I am proud to be an Ilonggo. We maintain a family residence in Iloilo because it is quiet and peaceful here... The pace is just right - not too fast and not too slow." The story of Mang Inasal is the perfect example of the probinsyano who has done good. So good in fact that he did not need leave home.
True to his entrepreneur roots, Edgar is not done yet. His company is also behind the resurgence of Deco's, a signature batchoy food joint that was also founded in Iloilo City in 1938 and claimed to be the origins of the famous La Paz Batchoy (a flavorful soup made from meat stock, noodles and garnished with herbs and spices). Deco stores are now slowly appearing in the Visayas and Metro Manila. Just like Mang Inasal a few years ago...
Trivia: Mang Inasal is literally translated as 'Mister Barbecue'. 'Injap' is Edgar's nickname and is the combination of 'Intsik' (Chinese) and Japanese, which is a nod to Edgar's forebears. Mang Inasal has more than 306 outlets located in 36 cities and provinces. Meals start from Php49 (one stick chicken or pork with rice plus soup).