It all began in 2014 with the group’s namesake concept, The Sunny Side Café, a neighbourhood comfort food watering-hole. Serving up all-day breakfast, baked foods and specialty coffee, it soon became a favourite on the island. Less than a year later, they expanded in order to offer the Boracay community food something new.
Today the group comprises: The Sunny Side Café, Spicebird (known for grilled meats and Piri-Piri sauce), Coco Mama (vegan coconut ice-cream), Supermagic Burgers (Kitayama beef patties), Mochiko (mochi ice-cream), Please, Senpai (Japanese food), and Tabi-Tabi (Filipino flavours).
"We built and own all of these ourselves. We don’t have any partners. But we do have a great Executive Chef, Natalia Moran, who developed almost all the dishes in The Sunny Side Group” Nowie shares proudly.
However, when the pandemic hit, The Sunny Side Group felt the impact. With the onset of the pandemic, they had to re-think just about everything. Nowie and Odette looked towards Manila and began working on bringing their concepts to the big city.
Read on to learn how this industrious team made things work in their favour by reading what Nowie Potenciano has to say:
How did the dining scene change for you and your company in 2020?
The world really turned upside-down for us in 2020 and it was especially difficult in our case because not only are we in food but we are also in a highly tourist-dependent area (Boracay). We started to feel the pinch when lockdowns started in January and February 2020. There was [a] noticeable drop in visitors to the island. When the Manila lockdown was announced, we knew that we couldn’t continue to operate. Unlike in Manila, there isn’t a big enough local market on the island to sustain our restaurants, so we decided to temporarily close. We were expecting a six-month shut down as the worst-case scenario but we were sorely mistaken.
You guys have opened new concepts during this pandemic. Could you share what new brands you created and what pushed you to start new things?
Five months into the pandemic, we started to accept that things were not going to return to normal any time soon. And while we tried to financially support our staff in Boracay as much as we were able to, we were also at our personal limit.
Fortunately, we were offered a space at The Grid by Charles and Anna Paw, and there we decided to open a permanent branch of Spicebird, our Piri-Piri Grill. We also opened a pop-up of The Sunny Side Cafe there.
We knew that recovery would be a long, rocky road. That’s why we also decided to set up ghost kitchens too which involved creating new brands that would be operated out of the same space as Spicebird. We launched: Please, Senpai, serving Japanese yakitori bowls, and Tabi-Tabi Filipino Grill serving Filipino barbecue. Both leverage on our strengths in grilling and sauces, and allows us to enter new categories in food with the same resources. We are hoping that doing this will help us survive such a competitive new market.