An American Diner in Naga

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NAGA’s favorite burger joint will be coming to Manila. — HTTP://BIGGSINC.PH

SURE, there’s Jollibee and Mcdonald’s in Naga, but have you ever tried Bigg’s Diner? In a matter of months, one won’t have to hop all the way to Bicol for the Naga favorite, as it plans to expand to Manila later this year.

The diner that features retro interiors (complete with a jukebox that unfortunately did not bang out tunes) has 14 branches in Naga, and one in Batangas, concentrating its efforts in Luzon’s southern regions.

Earlier this month, BusinessWorld got a taste of their crispy southern-style fried chicken during a trip to Naga, and they could give any fried chicken joint in the National Capital Region a run for its money. The chicken had a light crispy skin that was noisy to the bite, and a tangy flavor that tasted like summer. The restaurant also offers ribs, which were easy to strip from the bone and dropped dripping with the in-house barbecue sauce onto the plate. Its burgers, meanwhile, are served on a warm, toasted bun, and while the patty isn’t as juicy as hoped for, its flavor more than make up for it.

The venture began in 1983 by three ladies who lived in Naga. According to Bigg’s, Inc. COO Adolf Aran, the company began first as a gym, then after that failed venture, the three ladies behind Bigg’s thought of making customers fat instead of fit. As choosing to set up a burger joint, the three ladies were inspired by the entry of McDonald’s into the market in the 1980s, and the rise of Jollibee in the late 1970s. Mr. Aran also said that Bigg’s stands for “Beautiful Intelligent Gorgeous Girls” — a testament to the founding ladies’ sense of humor. Speaking of intelligent ladies, it’s said that Vice-President Leni Robredo pops in once in a while when she travels to her Bicol base.

Now the thing is, transplanting the concept to Manila can be challenging. Mr. Aran cites, for example, the stiff competition in Manila from several local and global players, as well as the challenges of establishing a supply chain, since the chain’s commissary is located in Bicol. What he’s looking forward to bring is the food’s freshness, which he then thinks brings up the diner a notch above fastfood.

The retro interiors, while definitely adding to the experience, becomes a powerful weapon of memory. Since it’s the only place for miles with such interiors, fond memories are immediately formed within it. When asked if the concept ever gets stale, Mr. Aran reminded us that babies who were once brought to a Bigg’s now have families, and are eager to share their memories with their offspring. “They attach a lot of memories to it,” he said. — Joseph L. Garcia