Still Hot: Lots’a Pizza Turns 35
Husband and wife Ed and Tess Ngan Tian — the founders of Lots’a Pizza — are celebrating a significant milestone this year. The Filipino pizza brand is marking its 35th anniversary.
Ed — started business by opening the snack food stall R&W Foods at Virra Mall Greenhills in 1980. In 1986 he told Tess that he wanted to open food stalls in San Beda College (SBC), Mendiola. Tess, who worked as a finance and administrative director for San Beda - Alabang, didn't immediately get on board with his idea. "I was hesitant at first because I didn't have any academic preparation and experience to be in the food business," she said.
Despite Tess's apprehensions, Ed was able to convince her that it would be a good venture. He pointed out that the odds were in their favor since there was high foot traffic in the location he had picked out.
Tess disclosed: "Our plan was to put up and sublease 12 stalls. We operated three of these stalls under the R&W Foods foodprints." However, their plan didn't really work out at first. "There were no takers," she recalled. "So, we ended up taking over three more stalls. Tenants later occupied the rest of the stalls."
The couple stayed in the SBC location for eight profitable years. They only moved out because the school started constructing the College of Law building there.
Aside from serving lunch fare and the usual snack items, Ed and Tess thought about serving "Pinoy style" pizza. To make sure that they did everything right, Tess took up a course in pizza technology at the prestigious American Institute of Baking (now known as AIB International) in Kansas City. When she was done with the course, Tess was able to develop Lots’a Pizza's signature parbaked crust and sauce.
The couple's investment in crafting the perfect Pinoy pizza paid off. Customers loved Lots’a Pizza. Soon after the brand took off, Tess resigned from her day job and focused on the business. Ed and Tess have been overseeing the pizza-making process since then. Lots’a Pizza's operates commissaries in Las Pinas, Pampanga, and Cavite. Lots’a Pizza is among the Top Five (5) Pizza Companies in the Philippines and foremost in the Take Out and Quick Serve category.
In 2000, Lots'a Pizza started expanding. Ed presented the idea of franchising to Tess. Once again, she didn't immediately agree with him. "There were no franchising schools at that time," she reasoned. "Natakot ako na baka hindi maalagaan ang product."
Eventually, Ed was able to convince Tess to give franchising a try. "Kami na ang nag-aral kung paano gagawin ang franchising namin," she said.
The decision to get into franchising proved to be another win for Lots’a Pizza. In fact, its success has been recognized through several awards as Best Franchising Support, Best in Local Franchise, Best in Homegrown Franchise, Most Promising Franchise, Fastest Growing Franchise and finally in The Hall of Fame for franchise awards by Entrepreneur Magazine. And more, Best Business Award from BPI-Family Savings Bank, Aside for being the bank’s Best List of franchisors.
Thriving Amid the Pandemic
In 2020, many businesses had to shut down due to Covid - related restrictions. However, it is worth noting that almost all Lots’a Pizza outlets managed to stay open.
Tess revealed, "The pandemic didn't really stop us. We were only restricted due to the curfew imposed during lockdowns. But we were able to continue our operations. We have a number of outlets that are located in supermarkets. So, when supermarkets opened, they were also allowed to operate." Our take-out and delivery options sustained us during these trying times.
Pizza itself also proved to be resilient because it's something that can be shared with the whole family. It appeals to all age groups — from kids to senior citizens."
The numbers back Tess's statement. Today, it has 130 franchised outlets and 23 company-owned outlets included spread throughout Luzon.
These days, though, Tess noted that the market has gotten extremely competitive. Thus, Lots'a Pizza continues to innovate, keep up with trends, marketing and the latest technology. "We haven't stopped learning," said Tess. "We do have an advantage because we are pioneers in our level of business. We have also maintained our integrity, credibility, and the quality of our products. These are things we will never compromise on."
As for Filipinos who are thinking of putting up their own business, Tess advises: "You should know every aspect of your business. You should know how everything is done — be it in Human Resources, Purchasing, and all other departments. You should be able to answer any question about your business immediately. Hindi pwede 'yung tatawag ka pa ng ibang tao to find out what's going on. Kasi mahirap when you don't have full control of your business."
In fact, Tess revealed that her son, Robert, who is now serving as Lots’a Pizza's Vice President/ General Manager started out as a bodega helper. He also had a stint as part of their service crew. After successfully graduating with honors at Ateneo Graduate School’s Masters in Entrepreneurship course, he is adequately prepared to take over.
That said, Tess likewise said that the company treats its employees like family members. "We want them to feel that this business is also their own. Importante na may malasakit rin sila sa negosyo. I don't see them as mere employees. For those who later move on to other companies, I also want them to use what they learned from us. It would be great if they are also able to start their own businesses," she said.
This year Lots’a Pizza celebrates 35 years of making Pizza a part of every Filipino’s time for bonding and celebrating life’s milestones.