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Marvin Agustin talks about keeping business afloat amid pandemic

With the service industry practically at a standstill because of the pandemic, celebrity businessman Marvin Agustin has wasted no time finding ways to keep his restaurants afloat.

Marvin is the co-owner of several restaurants that include SumoSam, Marciano’s, John and Yoko, Johnny Chow, and Wolfgang’s Steakhouse.

He has recently opened a cloud kitchen called By Secret Kitchen in Quezon City as the pivot that will align the course of his food business to the needs of the times.

Cloud kitchens are commercial food production facilities for take-out orders and deliveries.


For Marvin, the health of his staff will always come first because a healthy workforce is key to a successful business.

He let on though that the biggest headache to him over the past year and a half has been finding the balance between maintaining his business and insuring the health of his employees.

He said during his Zoom press launch for Maxicare SME Healthcare Plans last September 10, 2021, “That’s the hardest balance, ang health and economy.

“Pero kung ano man ang dapat mauna, of course, health.

“Tulad ng nabanggit ko, hindi ko mapipilit yung mga team members ko na pumasok kung they don’t feel safe on going to work.

“It’s always difficult and challenging how to navigate and to balance both. That’s why sometimes, we need to have a great team so we can come up with a great solution.

“[Kasi] hindi naman puwede ipagpatuloy yung pagtatrabaho because livelihood is also very important.

“Kung walang trabaho, wala rin tayong mapapakain sa pamilya natin, ang hirap ng sitwasyong ngayon.”


One of the important things Marvin has learned over the past year is the importance of getting their employees a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan.

The 42-year-old actor-entrepreneur explained, “Alam mo naman yung food business, some can do WFH [work from home].

“But not for people who would need to cook in kitchen, would need to pack, fix our deliveries, they need to be in the kitchen.

“Somehow it’s an added protection and hindi na din kami nagwo-worry.”

Marvin batted for an HMO as a good investment especially if an outbreak happens in a workplace, although he acknowledged some employers have two minds about it.

The ABS-CBN actor said, “It’s intimidating because it’s an added expense.

“Ang hirap nga ngayon, konti yung papasok [income], mas marami yung palabas so why would I add more expense?

“But we shouldn’t see this as an expense, it’s an investment if something happens.

“Hindi lang sya protection for our health, but it’s also a protection for financial burden and impact in case something happens in your organization or any of your employees.

“Hindi mo na kailagan pa maglabas ng malaking halaga or pati ng employee mo kasi mayroong Maxicare plan that can soothe even the start-ups.

“Akala natin pang-malaking company lang siya, but as low as three people in the company you can get an HMO.

“Ganun ka-covenient at ka-affordable ang pagkuha ng HMO.”


The other piece of advice Marvin would like to share with other entrepreneurs is the importance of social media in a business.

He explained, “Being in digital, on social media platforms is not an option anymore, it’s a necessary step for you now to be able to survive.”

Marvin also advises business owners to listen to their customers.

“And another one is listen to the needs of.. from where you would bring your business to your organization and especially your customers.

“Kailangan mas makinig ka ngayon talaga, hindi pwedeng matigas yung ulo mo na kung ano yung gusto mong gawin and hoping that you would be successful,

“No, medyo challenging ang gumawa ng venture or ipagpatuloy ang mga negosyo ngayon.”


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