#ChinoyProfiles: Eric Dee on Starting Small and Ending Big

By Queencee Colleen Quitalig 27 May, 2017


Who would've thought that a dishwasher will someday turn into the man to bring the first celebrity chef restaurant in the country? This might sound surprising to some, but it's a surprise to everyone but this person himself. Since he was a kid, Eric Dee already knew that he will someday make a name in the restaurant industry, as he watched his parents paved the way. In spite of the influence and the resources his family already had, though, Eric chose to start from zero and work his own way up the ladder. 

Take a sneak peek at the journey of Eric, Managing Director of Foodee Global Concepts, through this interview.

Eric Dee's family had the same slow-but-sure progress up the proverbial success ladder. The Dees entered the restaurant industry 30 years ago with a single store. And if you've ever heard of the adage, "Luck is when opportunity meets hardwork," their family's story might be a manifestation of that.

My grandfather actually was into lumber, but my dad thought that it wasn’t the right business for him. So, he started a business on his own with his first restaurant. Like I said, my father was the waiter, my mother was the cashier, and I was running around the restaurant and hanging around with the staff. And, as they say, the rest is history. We’ve met Henry Sy, my parents met Henry Sy, who loved the restaurant, and asked us to open up restaurants in their malls. During that time, it was yet the first SM—SM North EDSA. Now, SM has 57 malls, if I’m not mistaken, and we have about 2-3 stores in each of their malls.

Inspired by his parents and growing up in a restaurant, Eric, even at a very young age, decided that this is the industry where he'll plant himself grow.

I started when I was 13 years old. When I was 13 years old, I started working at a restaurant as a dishwasher, waiter. I worked in McDonald’s. I’ve also tried working in Jollibee. Then, I studied abroad. After graduating college, I became the general manager for an Italian restaurant chain in San Francisco. I was handling five restaurants at the time. After that, I moved to Kuala Lumpur where I was the general manager for a hotel. And, ever since, I’ve been working in the Food and Beverage industry.

After learning the ins and outs of the industry on his own, Eric came back to where he started and chose to contribute to their family's expanding business, Foodee Global Concepts. Although he admits that he did have a rough start:

I think, in every typical family business, there will always be the patriarch of the family, especially in a Chinese household. Whatever he says is the rule. But, in my case, that’s also the reason why I chose to work outside of our family business, being able to handle multi-million dollar business overseas, and not our own, has proven me that I can handle a larger-scale business. And kind of have them trust me.

Eventually, Eric gained the confidence of his dad. Now, with his vision for global competitiveness, their company got to introduce the first ever celebrity chef restaurant to the Filipino crowd.

So, when we decided to bring in the Todd English Food Hall, two years ago, it was such a big project. It was a 900-square-meter space with 250 seating capacity, and it was the first celebrity chef restaurant in the country. It was also the first concept of its kind. It was our first foray into foreign brands. We were unsure about the market. But, I think, when we opened it, it was just the perfect timing. After that, everyone started out bringing in international brands. People became more aware about food. I think, Filipinos, in general, are now a little bit more sophisticated when it comes to dining.

Thanks to his determination to change the game, in terms of the Filipino restaurant industry, their company's move seemed to have created a domino effect. Now, other brands are seeking to elevate their competence in order to please the Filipino's improved palate. As Eric himself observes,

Restaurants are opening on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, but there’s also restaurants that close on a daily basis. But, in general, I think that consumers are benefiting from the industry. Everyone’s competing to have the best quality, everyone’s competing to offer it at the least price.

While the industry evolves, Eric Dee also keeps on striving to bring better concepts to the table. From the 13-year-old dishwasher that he once was, he indeed came a long way. And as goes on, he makes sure that he carries these pieces of advice from his father:

My father always told me to be prudent and frugal. Save for a rainy day. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Typical sayings that you would expect from a Chinese family. The Chinese culture is really looking into extending through generations, making sure wealth is passed on to generation, and that the business actually excels from generation to generation. So, it’s my job to make sure that we continue doing this until my son handles the business, and making sure that we leave a legacy. 

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Last modified on Tuesday, 30 May 2017 00:08

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