On Marvin Agustin: Why His Restaurants Aren’t Really That Bad at All

September 16, 2019

I was having a conversation with another food-obsessed friend when we realized that Wolfgang’s Steakhouse was coming to Manila. The steakhouse chain has quite the reputation; set up by a Peter Luger alum, it is one of the few places that have nailed their recipes for an amazing steak. I remember having a meal at one of their many branches, a last minute, desperate-for-hunger choice, where the steaks were almost exceptional, still slightly crackling out of the oven. We were excited for this place to open in Manila. But then, we were skeptical when we heard Marvin Agustin and his partners were the ones bringing it in.

Marvin Agustin1

Agustin and his partners don’t exactly have a stellar reputation when it comes to the culinary world. The group, which includes business partners Raymund Magdaluyo and Ricky Laudico among others, is known mostly for SumoSam, Marciano’s, John and Yoko, and Johnny Chow, among others. While it is one of the fastest-growing restaurant empires in the city, a lot of diners have a few things to say about his establishments. Sometimes the quality isn’t stellar, the food not so great, the service subpar; it has even enjoyed a string of controversies related to rumors of worms in spicy tuna, and the like. The restaurants aren’t exactly celebrated for their culinary status, and because of Agustin’s other career, he hasn’t exactly been cut a lot of slack for becoming a restaurant entrepreneur.

However, does he deserve all the flack he gets? Maybe not. Before even becoming a teen hearthrob, Agustin set his paces as a waiter, and eventually took up business courses in restaurant management. This is a man with a dream, and kudos to him for turning his acting money into a mini empire in the Philippines. SumoSam has over 25 stores now, and the group has recently opened Banzai, a 1200 square meter buffet space that is now competing with the likes of Sambokojin, Yakimix, and Vikings. They only seem to be expanding at an alarming rate, and are now bringing in concepts from abroad. Their first franchise, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers from Hawaii, has had an inconsistent first run, but is starting to receive better reviews. Then there are the confirmed rumors of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, soon to open in Newport Mall, already dominated by the group’s restaurants.

Marvin Agustin2

While many seem to have a problem with Agustin, he’s a smart businessman who seems to have a handle on what the Filipino consumer wants. Maybe his stuff is mediocre, but that’s the point—they aren’t advertising to be anything else. They are what they are—slightly commercialized chains, that aim to serve the middle market. I would rather eat at one of his many establishments, knowing what to expect, than at a new concept with a chef or entrepreneur behind it who is waxing lyrical about their high culinary standard, but fails to deliver. Sometimes, there isn’t a problem with being mediocre—and that’s why Agustin might just have his formula right.

What’s your take on Marvin Agustin’s restaurant empire? Do you share the same view? If not, we’d love to hear your side in the comments section below.

Pamela Cortez Pamela Cortez

Pamela Cortez writes about food full-time, and has honed her craft while writing for publications such as Rogue, Town and Country, and The Philippine Star. She once rode on a mule for a mile just to eat mint tea and lamb in Morocco, and has eaten a block of Quickmelt in one sitting. Her attempt at food photography can be viewed online @meyarrr.

26 comments in this post SHOW

26 responses to “On Marvin Agustin: Why His Restaurants Aren’t Really That Bad at All”

  1. hehehe says:

    I guess Marvin subscribes to the “pwede na” mentality?

  2. Rmc says:

    I think us plebeians are just happy with delicious food and good service at reasonable price. Among my friends and family, i dont know of anyone who really cares about who owns the place.

    And i am sure that most filipinos have no idea that marvin agustin has been getting all these flack.

    • Pamela Cortez says:

      I’ve seen a lot of people brush him off as a celebrity trying to bank on his fame to make more bucks by opening restaurants, therefore never taking him seriously. I think this happens everywhere- like how JLo tried to open a restaurant but failed (even though that’s a horrible example). I for one look at the company, chef or people behind it to check out whether their track record is a good one! Might save me money, hehe.

  3. Adrian De Leon says:

    I’ve only tried Sumosam, John and Yoko and Akira. All of them were okay, I wouldn’t go so far as to call their food mediocre. But they’re definitely overpriced. I think that’s where most of the flak comes from. If I had to guess, I think most of their group’s detractors are people from the restaurant business themselves, since they know that their markups are higher than the common industry standard in their category. 🙂

  4. Albert-Jan Santillana says:

    I have tried out most of his establishments and although the food is not as bad (mediocre) as everyone is saying what gets me all the time is their service crews who are unsmiling and can’t seem to wait to get you out of there.

  5. HiddenMickey says:

    They’re not mediocre. They’re “hindi sulit”. If they sold those for Tokyo Tokyo prices, people would be lining up.

  6. marge888 says:

    have tried johnny chow a bit expensive maybe why they put it at newport mall so that high class people can afford.

  7. Gaspar says:

    They’re all terrible. Banzai has the worst food and customer service even when compared to Yakimix and Sambo Kujin. Sumosam is just a step above Tokyo Tokyo and inferior to even Red Kimono. Don’t be fooled.

  8. Dok Tour says:

    Tried dining in Dekada & John & Yoko. John & Yoko’s pizza is great but bad customer service. :/


  9. Nexie says:

    I’ve only tried Sumo Sam and it sucks, but your right about the consistency, it consistently sucks

    • Pamela Cortez says:

      I seriously laughed out loud at this! Poor Marvin. I guess there’s a lot of people who really just don’t like his restaurants 🙁

  10. Gerry Almeda says:

    Lol, this entire article is a back-handed compliment.

    • imho says:

      I’m a big fan of this site but I don’t know how I should feel about this article.
      It’s like you’re telling me that his restaurants are not good, but we shouldn’t expect too much from him so we shouldn’t complain.
      Personally, I think it would be better if people criticize up front in hopes of pushing others to be better instead of saying that it’s perfectly fine to be mediocre.
      Maybe your goal is to be positive and kind but the for me it comes across as condescending.

      • Gerry Almeda says:

        I agree!

      • Pamela Cortez says:

        Our goal was to say, in his case it’s not about the food, it’s about the business! He’s a great businessman, when it comes down to it, no matter what people say about his food, or his service. Been hearing so much about him negatively, so we wanted to jump in and say that this guy is making tons of money, so don’t be too quick to write him off just yet 😀

        • Complainer says:

          Then the title of the article is misleading. Title says “why his restaurants aren’t so bad” then you proceed to elaborate how bad his food is, but its alright because he makes a ton of money. It’s not so bad for him, it’s terrible for the consumer. I know several people who have gotten sick from his restaurants. This is like saying, “graft and corruption isn’t so bad at all, look at how rich the politicians are getting!” Exaggerated, yes, but purposely so to show you how silly the logic is.

          His restaurants used to be great (was a big fan of John and Yoko), but now they are crap. Heck, even Banzai is terrible. I’d rather eat next door at Buffet 101, at least I can tell the food isn’t gonna make me sick.

  11. Chia says:

    Food is alright, but service is just baaaaad

  12. eye_in_the_sky says:

    our’s is a family that would rather prepare our own food especially if it’s salad. but I really like one of the salads in Marciano’s. I did not know it is owned by Marvin until this article.

  13. Dina says:

    sumo sam and john and yoko food is good but severs are just plain rude. They constantly talk with each other in groups and when you raise your hand to order they look and make you feel na istorbo ka sa kwentuhan nila. Sayang, okei sana food pero very poor service. I hope malaman ng management to so they can do something about it before its too late.

    • ScoutLovesFood says:

      I totally agree. The wait staff are snooty, arrogant, and unpleasant. I’ve been a number of times and I’ve experienced bad service every visit. After the last one, I promised myself to never eat there again.

    • ScoutLovesFood says:

      I totally agree. The wait staff are snooty, arrogant, and unpleasant. I’ve been there a number of times and I’ve experienced bad service every visit. After the last one, I promised myself to never eat there again.

    • stella says:

      are those problems that can specifically be pinned down on him though? i mean, he franchises these restaurants out so i’d imagine he has little to do with the day to day management of individual restaurants. not trying to be argumentative, just genuinely curious.

  14. Janus says:

    Their food is okay, sometimes even good depending on the dish. I just don’t understand their service AT ALL. Ever since the very first Sumosam up until today, their service never changed for the better. My family ate at Akira at Shangri-la recently and there was a waiter sleeping behind a column and they even have makeshift beddings on the floor. Back then at Sumosam a friend of mine complained and the waiter just gave a nonchalant “sige, bahala ka icomplain mo.” People here have NO respect for their customers, their job or maybe even for their boss. Agustin may be a great businessman but he seems like a great businessman who doesn’t give a shit about people.

  15. harry says:

    masarap lang sa first 3-months. after lasang karton na

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