By Buhawe B. Corvera

Henrik Yu

When longtime friends Henrik Yu, wife Joana Yu and Catherine Genabe put up Bigby’s Café and Restaurant, they were banking on something big: Their collective dreams. To make their dream fly they toss in “big” chunks of passion, determination, creativity, fun and commitment to excellent service. Now, Bigby’s has been delighting diners for the past decade and still continues to run with big treats for food lovers all over the country.

After finishing his studies, Henrik Yu settled back to his hometown, but had frequent trips to Manila to visit his then girlfriend, Joana (who is now his better half) while she was finishing her schooling.

“Joana and Cathy had just finished studying culinary arts in Manila when I asked them to go back to Cagayan de Oro City and build a food business together,” he said. All three of them are Kagayanons who share the same passion for food and business.

It was an unusual time for starting up a business when they opened their first branch in Cagayan de Oro City in 1998. The country was in the midst of coping with the previous year’s financial crisis that struck Asia. Most people gravitated to eating out at sidewalk stalls offering roasted or broiled meals and have shunned high-end treats such as dining in expensive outlets.

All in the name

“In Bigby’s, everything is big. Big serving, big service, big personality and big satisfaction,” said Yu.

The owners simply played around with the word “big”. But it was no play but rather all seriousness for the trio in parlaying the “big” concept into actual service. They really worked on having big things to offer to diners and food lovers.

Each customer is treated with big care starting with warm smiles from the people at Bigby’s. The place itself is set to provide big comfort to every guest. Many Filipinos are used to dining at restaurants then ordering extra rice and extra viands. At Bigby’s, they do not have to because every meal is of generous serving. Each plate is packed with delicious food and at large amounts that you can even share your meal with others if you wish to do so. Big satisfaction at every meal has never gotten any better at Bigby’s Café and Restaurant.

Traveler’s nook

Entering any Bigby’s restaurant is like enrolling in an “adventure”. Every diner becomes a traveler and learns about different places around the country and even around the world through the food and the places. “We want to set a dining atmosphere that is similar to be being taken into a travel adventure through the many mementos, artifacts and bits and pieces from interesting places around the world as decors shown all over the restaurant; destination spots on the big wall maps and through the different dishes cleverly named on the menus. There is warmth and care from the people serving diners, the services offered, as well as warmth and coziness where the dining experience takes place.

While Yu basically manages the marketing and the business side of the restaurant, it is Catherine and his wife Joana that work the magic in the kitchen.

The Bigby’s menu is filled with and inspired by recipes here and abroad. They have learned how to prepare the great food they have tasted as they travelled to different places. There are dishes inspired by Asian, European and American Cuisines but with local twists to suit the Filipino taste. The food itself is an adventure all on its own.

Menu for success

“Our basic principle in making things work for Bigby’s is valuing people. Value the diners and the visitors. Give them what they have come for. Good food, good service, and value for their money. Also, valuing the people working with us in every restaurant. They are the people who are there to serve the crowd daily. They can serve well, care well and give the same value the owners have if they as well were valued as much. Like the cooks for example, they have to be commended for their work and effort because the main thing that attracts the people to dining places other than the dining experience is the food itself,” attested Yu. All these “ingredients”, he said make up the menu for their success.

In 2000 or barely two years since Bigby’s started, it was already pocketing numerous culinary awards and recognition from different institutions. The business was adding one branch after another and now owns a total of eight branches in Mindanao and Visayas (2 in Cagayan de Oro City, 2 in Cebu City, 2 in Bacolod City and 2 in Davao City). Bigby’s ended year 2008 [their 10th year] with a bang with the opening of their 9th branch and the very first in Luzon at SM Megamall Atrium.

Goals and More Dreams

Despite reaping all these initial successes, Bigby’s wants to take on more. They want to make a long-staying mark on the dining scene and be unmistakably associated to a place where there is always great food and excellent service.

More than continually giving their customers that “busog” factor and keeping the homey and warm atmosphere of each of their branch, Bigby’s hopes to push the adventure–travel-dining formula to a higher gear by offering each branch’s dining experience as their best bet for a travel souvenir for all their loyal diners.

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