From Taxi Driver to Lomi King
By Sam Christopher Lim
Senior Vice President, Francorp Philippines
For the Filipino, family is paramount. Whether it is temporarily housing a relative who is going through hardships or braving a new country in search of a better life for their children, the Filipino motto is always “Family First”. Through difficulties and successes, the Filipino can always count on his family being there by his side.
The Visleno siblings of Batangas know all about the importance of family. Losing their father at an early age made him and his siblings depend on one another and strengthened their bonds as a family. Even as they grew up and were employed in different jobs - some in middle management, some in manufacturing, and others abroad as OFWs - they never lost that strong bond with one another. And unknown to them, it would be that bond that would once more draw them back together.
It all began when eldest brother Celso, a veteran taxi driver, began to search for an alternative source of income. Tired of having to search for customers, he wanted a business that would draw customers to him. From his own experience, he knew that one thing every Filipino loved was a hot meal after a long and tiring day at work. As a proud Batangueño, he got the idea for a tried-and-true Batangueño classic - Batangas lomi. However, knowing that eateries and restaurants selling lomi could be found all over Batangas, he decided to take his brand outside his home province. And so in 2000 the first VJ Batangas Lomi House – named after his youngest son Victor Jay – opened in Laguna.
To further set their lomi apart, Celso used an old family recipe provided by his uncle, which called for a different set of ingredients. To differentiate them from the competition, VJ Batangas Lomi House has their recipe as an edge. Their pork lomi does not contain any ground pork or beef, kikiam, or meatballs. Instead, diners are treated to full chunks of pork, giving their lomi a meatier flavour and making it much more filling. The altered recipe paid off. Word of mouth soon spread about this small eatery with the meals that were light on the budget but heavy on the stomach.
Looking to expand his business and at the same time help out his family, Celso asked his family members if they would be willing to help him establish and grow the brand. They accepted and left regular employment – his brothers-in-law coming from 15 years of working in the garments industry and some of his other siblings returning to the Philippines after working as OFWs – to join what was quickly becoming a strong and popular business.
The family business continued to gain popularity and expand, eventually reaching their current status of 18 branches throughout Laguna. Their operations also became more streamlined when Edwin Visleno, one of Celso’s brothers, left a middle management position to help standardize their recipe as well as incorporate them into a legal entity. Edwin has also taken the lead in developing the business for franchising. Enlisting the aid of Francorp, the Visleno siblings aim to take the VJ Batangas Lomi House brand nation-wide within three years, and maybe internationally after that.
Through it all, the Visleno siblings have continued to support each other. Raised by their mother who worked as a dressmaker after their father passed away early, they acknowledge that their strength comes from family bonds. And through the 14 years that they have been in operation, they have seen how their lomi promotes that sense of family, unity, and togetherness. “May nakita ako na regular customer” narrates Edwin. “Nung estudyante siya, dito siya nakain. Nung nagka-girlfriend siya, dito din sila kumakain. Hanggang sa grumaduate siya, nagkatrabaho, dito sila kumakain nung mga katrabaho niya. Hanggang sa nagkaanak na siya, dito na rin niya dinadala.”
Celso also tells the story of how despite the simplicity of their product they are able to cut across social class. “Lahat ng klase ng tao kumakain ng lomi namin. Doktor, abogado, office worker, driver, trabahador, estudyante. Lahat sila, pare-parehong kumakain dito, pare-pareho din ang sinasabi. Ang sarap daw!” He narrates with a laugh.
It's no surprise, then, that the number of repeat and regular customers to VJ Batangas Lomi House continues to increase. With its friendly staff, welcoming atmosphere, hot and filling meals and a franchise package that starts as low as Php 600,000, the Visleno siblings are continuing to build their dream of a creating a brand where the customers feel like family.
Get a glimpse of VJ Batangas Lomi House's Franchise Package here.