BlendPH Partners With Street Food Franchise Startup from Iloilo

Nov 18, 2021

Samantha’s Steamboat Cooks Up a Storm

It’s “anchors aweigh” for one of the new franchising partners of peer-to-peer lender BlendPH – Samantha’s Steamboat. The street foods franchise venture is making waves in the `Heart of the Philippines’ – Iloilo, driven by the entrepreneurial spirit of a food-loving family and their business partners.

Samantha’s Steamboat, a true-blue Ilonggo brand, is the brainchild of Ray Charles Remo, who introduced the street food concept to his cousin, the company’s CEO Mary Joy Minerva. Things fell into place in February 2019, with the teamup of Melchor Minerva, Joenel Tabalanza, and Wilson Mones, all of whom took on the reins of the various key aspects of the business.

Realizing early on that Filipino street food is something that appeals to the palates of wide range of people with varying ages, lifestyles, and occupations, the management team of Samantha’s Steamboat lost no time launching the franchise venture. The first phase of the street food franchise expansion led to 18 branches in Western and Eastern Visayas. Some of those are located in malls in Iloilo City, Bacolod City and Dumaguete City, plus a beachfront branch in Boracay.  

To date, there are no branches yet in Metro Manila, but the company has been receiving inquiries about the Pinoy street food franchise business. “We are open to expanding to NCR, Luzon and Mindanao,” said Samantha’s Steamboat Marketing Officer and Consultant Wilson Mones.

Indeed, while Iloilo does beckon given its rich cultural heritage, magnificent architectural landmarks, and breathtaking views of its rugged coastline, it is also a perfect food stopover. Interestingly, Samantha’s Steamboat has become a gastronomic sensation for Ilonggos and visitors.  The brand became Iloilo City’s trending street food brand in 2019, hinged on the concept of a healthier way of enjoying one’s favorite street foods.

Inspired by the Malaysian Lok lok (which connotes a dip) and is like steamboat except that the street food is skewered on sticks and dipped into hot boiling water instead of letting it stay for a few minutes in a pot of boiling stock, Samantha’s Steamboat easily caught the attention of Filipino street food lovers.

All over Asia, street food stalls are commonly found by at hawker centres, such as those in Singapore, by the roadside, and somewhere near busy junctions. There are many neighborhood alleys as well as more accessible places to enjoy fish balls, squid balls, lobster balls, squid fingers, panda fish, and isaw, and kwek-kwek (the omnipresent Filipino street food), among the popular street food Philippines’ tasty versions many residents are fond of.

Pinoy Street Foods Standouts

Street foods in the Philippines presently come in various delicious concoctions and presentations that can be found not only in many key cities’ standout street food hunts, but even in hip gathering places, including wine bar-restaurants. Street food like squid balls, quail eggs (kwek-kwek), turon, and fish cake are even paired with fine wines.

For many Filipinos, though, the best street foods are those they have enjoyed since childhood, and still chance upon at neighborhood corners, mall stalls, or open-air food fairs. Most people remember how  pushcart vendors would wait outside their schools when they were young, enticing them with sizzlingly tasty and hunger-appeasing deep-fried fish balls.

In more recent years, Metro Manilans who have been able to go outside their homes again have tried chewy street food options in food park stalls that are every morsel as delicious with beer or eaten with their other favorite beverages. Nowadays, if you know where to go to satisfy your street food cravings, you will save cash while discovering amazing treats for your tummy.

Joy Ferrer, 33, a working mother of four, shared that she and her hubby Eduard, found the street food in stalls along Ugbo Street in Manila utterly delightful.  The same positive sentiment towards street foods is echoed by sisters, Marie and Malou Filio from Quezon City. The two 40-something working professionals like fish tofu, squid balls, fish balls, and they have also tried squid fingers.

Selling Strong Even During Pandemic Era

It can be noted that the Pinoy street food business is thriving, even with the pandemic.  This has been good enough reason for enterprising individuals to consider it as a long-term franchise venture. Some small entrepreneurs have dished out their authentic takes on these well-loved comfort foods.

For its part, Samantha’s Steamboat has been able to introduce its ramen and steambowl (its version of stir-fried rice), along with its refreshing line of all-natural juices. The innovative product offerings have been widely accepted.

Queried how the company adapt to pandemic-induced challenges, Samantha’s Steamboat’s Wilson Mones replied that the business venture pivoted. It continued its operations even at the height of the pandemic. While the main challenge was foot traffic, since malls became less frequented and then had to adhere to rules on limited capacity, Samantha’s Steamboat was able to partner with delivery service platforms that helped it reach customers. “In this industry, change is (also) always constant and our team is always up for the challenge to innovate its marketing and operations,” Wilson Mones said.

The team introduced a streetfood concept that veered away from the streets, making it more in synch with the requirements of health-conscious quality-oriented customers.  The company has been following health, hygiene protocols.

The recent partnership deal with trusted peer-to-peer funding platform BlendPH augurs well for more Filipinos seeking a viable franchise business opportunity on easy financing terms.  “We love partnerships with esteemed organizations,” said Mones.  The partnership with BlendPH, he added, will not only  increase brand marketing efforts, but also “help committed individuals start their own business.”

At the moment, Samantha’s Steamboat has a singular street food franchise package. Franchisees may either set up their branch at a mall or at a location with good foot traffic. Successfully determining how to create and add value for customers is truly what sets some companies apart from the rest of the pack.  Enlisting help from reliable industry players is also a good thing, so as not to fall by the wayside.

With lots of food franchise ventures going head to head nowadays with bigger competitors, those who are able to pivot and adapt to challenges and opportunities for future growth, especially in the new normal, gain the edge. Samantha’s Steamboat has proven that it can roll with the punches and cook up a storm, with tasty and safe street food on-the-go as core product for a franchise venture.