Ong Mark Gerald, 24 Chicken founder and Qinghua Foods Corp. president. / Photographs courtesy of Mark Gerald Ong
On a purely for-leisure visit to South Korea, Ong Mark Gerald — stylized as OMG — had a sudden epiphany. He came across all kinds of Korean fried chicken, which were perfectly seasoned, fried to ideal crispy brown, absolutely delicious and wildly popular. He was amazed this quality staple remained affordable to the average customer.
Yet, he wondered why. Despite much lower space rent and hired personnel and ingredient costs, fried chicken was still relatively more expensive — perhaps even overpriced — in the Philippines. Right then and there, together with his business partners Jeff Sy and Jefferson Uy, OMG totally adopted and enhanced this concept.
So, in late 2017, the very first — now many consider legendary — branch of 24 Chicken was hatched in an unpretentious, small, cramped room along Leon Guinto Street within the vicinity of Vito Cruz, facing stiff and fierce competition from mainstay restaurants along Taft Avenue.
MARK with business partners Jeff Sy and Jefferson Uy.
The result? The venture was an instant success — an immediate take-away favorite of the neighborhood mainly composed by Lasallians, Scholasticans and Benildeans.
Since then, OMG, a De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde Export Management alumnus and now president of Qinghua Foods Corp. has expanded the fruitful business to several branches around the metro and beyond, including Davao.
On his me-time, he watches Korean telenovelas and NBA games and reads inspirational and motivational biographies.
We recently sat down with the gentleman as he recounted his journey.
On his family and upbringing:
“My dad, aged 18, migrated from Fujian province in China to the Philippines. With nothing but the clothes on his back. He always practiced self-discipline, honesty and integrity. Past jobs included being a garbageman, warehouseman, then as a chef. He eventually became an agent for women’s stockings and met my mom at work.
Citygolf Pasig branch.
“Meanwhile, she started her own Bodega Sale business in Divisoria, which sold picture frames, toys, umbrellas and eventually, fabrics.
“My parents always brought us to work to teach and train on the realities of business. We would sometimes aid our staff with carrying our products to the warehouse.
“We were taught not to compare ourselves with others — to be down-to-earth. Most importantly, he instilled in me the value of not being ashamed of your business as long as you do not step on others, steal, or commit criminal acts.
On 24 Chicken’s mission:
“We wish to give everyone the opportunity for good-tasting fried chicken at affordable prices. This can be done without using substandard ingredients but with reasonable rates.
On 24 Chicken’s name:
“Our benchmark is South Korea’s fried chicken, where shops are open for 24 hours. Our initial plan was to operate all day, any night, all the time. Finally, when customers Google 24 hours fried chicken in Manila, we want to be the first on the results page.”
24 Chicken spread.
On the business’ success:
“We wouldn’t be here today without our loyal customers, undying supporters and our dedicated staff, who believed in our original goal to provide top quality Korean Fried Chicken with attractive prices.”
On customer demand for new flavors:
“We are constantly bombarded by requests to introduce new flavors to our lineup. We listen and appreciate these feedbacks. Aware of current demand and trends, we only introduce new flavors when we are confident that ours is the best in the market. We want to serve only the best of its kind.”
On challenges brought by the pandemic:
“I would say, the most challenging part of the ongoing pandemic is not the loss of sales, as our devoted patrons continue to order. The real challenge is the safety of our staff. We make certain they follow standard health protocols. We grant them options not to work if they feel unsafe. We generously assist them with financial aid. If we ever feel that we risk exposing our staff and our customers, we are ready to close our branches.”
On advice to aspiring entrepreneurs:
“Dream. Aim. Plan. Act. Follow your dreams, but focus on specific aims. Narrow down your goals to be realistic and doable. Then, plan it all out and consider all the pros and cons, with exception. At the end of the day, action is needed. If not, everything is simply a hallucination.”
Credit belongs to : www.tribune.net.ph