2016 was a great food year in Cebu, evidenced by the many new spots opening at seemingly every corner of the city and the food market everyone has been buzzing about. If you haven’t been to Sugbo Mercado, it’s high time to check it out. It brings everyone together by gathering a wide variety of food options in one place in an alfresco venue. It has become the go to spot for family affairs, squad night outs or random date nights. Their contribution to the Cebu food scene is undeniable.
Zerothreetwo had a chance to email their marketing manager, Michael Karlo Lim, to talk about Sugbo Mercado. He tells all – the story behind this trending food market, what food and stores people line up to most and the things to look forward to from Sugbo Mercado for 2017!
032: Can you tell us how you guys got started with Sugbo Mercado? Who are the people behind it?
Karlo: Shortly after a chance encounter at their craft hotdog stall, longtime friends and business partners JP Chiongbian and Nino Bascon pitched to me the idea of starting a year-round weekend food market here in Cebu. I saw that as an avenue to further my advocacy for mainstream food education and the elevation of our food culture while they were keen on the angle of business development for startup food entrepreneurs. Months into planning, we later took on Charmaine Deleon and Ruby Pansoy. We now function with Nino and Charmaine handling finance, Ruby handling leasing, JP heading overall operations, with myself handling marketing and communications.
What was the public’s initial response to it?
We were generously received and continue to be to date. We have our hardcore fans with some notable local personalities and regulars rarely missing a weekend at our flagship Garden Bloc, IT Park location, which just turned a year old in September. We also have a growing number of regulars at our expansion at Cebu Business Park, too.
What are the challenges and struggles that you have encountered in creating Sugbo Mercado?
As with any new business, it was always about dealing with the unknown and building from the ground up. We had to look into factors of longevity, profitability, public response, etcetera. While we had plans laid out, a lot of these we had to make snap decisions on as new developments and challenges constantly emerged. Vendor acquisition was the hardest as to sell a weekend-only business model to Cebu was something new. Vendor management, later, was another. Logistics and layout were also particularly challenging given our outdoor setting and the petulant Philippine weather.
What are the achievements that you have had so far for Sugbo Mercado?
With about fifty-five vendors at our Garden Bloc site, we’ve already hit our goal of being the biggest weekend food market in Cebu. Our expansion into our second site in Cebu Business Park late in June, with about forty-five vendors, supplements that fact and these were all well within our first year of operations. We also recently opened our third market, Sugbo Mercado SRP, at City Di Mare on the South Road Properties, to an unprecedented customer attendance during opening weekend alone. Given those, our total vendor number, mix and quality already rival most other indoor operations. Our operations have brought out a lot of new and unique food concepts to add to the collective local food scene. We’ve also become quite the business incubator where our startups have become registered businesses, some of which have “graduated” from Sugbo Mercado with standalone operations elsewhere. We’ve also recently been endorsed by the Department of Tourism as Cebu’s First Weekend Food Market.
What are Sugbo Mercado’s best sellers?
There’s our lineup from our original set of vendors: Pad Thai from Banana Pancake Trail, Nikumaki, flavored chicken wings from 21 Dubbs, authentic Japanese ramen from Tokyo Street 123, ribs from Surfin’ Ribs, paella from Hala Paella, pizza from Rockn’ Pizza, churros from Papa Churros and spicy lechon belly from Kuzina Guadalupe. Later additions were flavored lemonades from John Lemon, Mee Goreng from Cribs, pork steak from Pork Barrel and alcohol-flavored popsicles from Tipsy Pops. More recent are freshly-squeezed pineapple juice from Pinacoolada, Japanese skewers from Sumiyaki Skewers, gambas from Shrimp & Co. and a whole lot more. (Take note of these guys!!)
What are the top 3 reasons why Sugbo Mercado is a must visit stop for everyone here in Cebu?
One, we’re the biggest collective of great food items in Cebu — a lot of which are unique to the market — a foodie’s one stop shop. Two, we have the chill come-one-come-all vibes. People from all walks of life converge here to enjoy themselves over food and our regular onsite activities including our entertainment lineup. Our three different locations also present different and very dynamic identities from the vendor mix to venue ambiance and the crowds these draw. Three, it’s a great avenue to meet new people and make connections.
Last but not the least, what should we look forward to for Sugbo Mercado?
After our Southern expansion, we’re pushing for North of the metro before the year ends. For 2017, let’s just say “we’ll cross the bridge when we get there.”
We commend the guys behind Sugbo Mercado for a superb job! What they have accomplished is truly extraordinary. Let’s also acknowledge the fact that they have provided more business opportunities for those who want to start their food business.
Tell us what your favorite food is from Sugbo Mercado! My personal favorites have been mentioned by Karlo already! Feel free to let us know if we missed something.