Thursday, October 8, 2020

Dampa Express Is Getting Bigger and Better in the New Normal

Dampa Express

Owner Simon Lim, Jr, Continues to Hold the Title of "Dampa King"
Dampa Express continues to live up to its name as your go-to place for affordable, fast, and convenient
seafood a la carte treats even during and despite the pandemicl
Our strength is that we've tried to do away with all the inconveniences and complications of most
seafood restaurants," owner Dampa King Simon Lim, Jr, explained. "We've dared to go against the trend
of posh high-brow exclusivity.

Our outlets are not fancy restaurants, so people feel welcome and comfortable, but they're air-
conditioned. And, we have an enclosed videoke room for small family gatherings, like birthdays and
baptismal celebrations."

Simon Lim Jr

Making Seafood Accessible to People

Customers do not have to spend too much money on live seafood, worry about picking the right
shellfish or getting the weight of crabs for your family, and wait a long time for your orders to be

All customers need to do is visit one of their going on 30 branches, including those that a
open, and order from an exciting menu of family-sized seafood sets.

If they're afraid to go out or travel-or are worried of catching COVID-19 in wet markets for fresh
seafood to cook at home-they can simply dial Dampa Express' hotline or message them for home

"We want customers to feel comfortable. So, we advise them to make reservations if they plan to dine
in on Fridays and Sundays because they might not find enough seats if they walk-in."

However, note that Dampa Express meals are priced and prepared for families. It's known as the
original house of seafood bilaos. "We have no solo meals and we do not compete with fast food outlets.
We aren't a fancy restaurant but we've intentionally veered away with fast food value meals and rice

Banking on Seafood Being Pandemic-Proof

"What we have are bilao [large women tray] sets that at P1,100 is more than a bargain for 3 to 4
people!" shared the Dampa King. "And you can upsize that to a killer bilao, our top of the line bestseller,
except for sauce-based dishes."

It's interesting, however, that Dampa Express's specialty, alimango sa bilao [crabs in large woven trays]
was discovered by accident.

"A lawyer friend ordered crabs and for lack of a better packaging for the crabs, had it delivered in a
large woven tray. He took a picture of the generous serving and posted it on social media." The post
generateda lot of likes and bombarded him with inquiries, "so we started using that packaging to
represent our brand."

Now, alimango sa bilao gets from 50 to 100 orders on an ordinary day to 200-250 orders on special
occasions like Mother's Day, on holidays and during the Christmas season December, ringing in a total of
P300K at its peak!

if you're curious what makes our cooking tick, there's really no secret to it. We just cook seafood the
dampa [cottage style, plus we don't stock. What's delivered today will be out by end of the day. So,
everything is as fresh as they can get."

"The only thing we don't have readily available are lobsters but these can be pre-ordered," reveals the
Dampa King.

Rising Demand for Seafood Deliveries

I thought l'd lose everything during the pandemic, but to my surprise sales grew exponentially with
greater demand for deliveries," confessed the Dampa King. "It turned out that seafood is pandemic

"We've survived with group service, offering a lot of variations-we have shrimp in eight variations, and
banking on seasonal demands. In January, for instance, when people are dieting meat dishes are on a
low, so our tuna sales go up!" he explained.
He acknowledges a great deal of this success on efficient and early deliveries, too. Just what the
sensitive nature of seafood dishes need and for this, he says, "Grab is a real game changer!"

With only the Greenhills branch closing shop for reasons not related to the lockdown, the restaurant
chain had to let go of 100 people overall given that branches had to temporarily suspend operations.

"m confident, however, that looking for new cooks and staff wouldn't be hard because we offer more
than the P160 per day and 1 free meal that other paluto [cooked to order) outlets give.

Thus, Dampa Express continues to operate on 300 employees who receive the minimum wage plus all
the government-mandated benefits they deserve as food service workers.

"Despite the ECQ resulting in only half of our staff coming in to work, we just held on to the motto that
as long as there are orders and people want seafood, we don't stop," avers the Dampa King.

Expanding after A Surprising Demand

Dampa Express wasn't a childhood dream or a dream that took to long on the planning table, In fact, it
was just a business enterprise that a Gold 's Gym marketing consultant, who rose up the ranks to vice
president, got interested in.

"1 only wanted one restaurant for my wife, but fate had a different plan for me," he remembers thinking
along the lines of Gerry's Grill or JT'S Manukan. They opened their first branch at Xavierville in Quezon
City, before moving toa bigger location on Kamias Road, just a few hundred meters away

"When we opened one branch, people really welcomed the idea that soon, everyone wanted a branch
near their place-it was totally unexpected!" He nearly closed a deal with a Singapore-based restaurant
operator before COVID-19 came.

"The demand keeps on growing so much so that one prospect even offered an exorbitant amount that
was really hard to refuse just to buy the name, but I thought it's too early for that. Another one from
Dubai wanted to get the full rights to put up branches in the UAE, which I declined," narrates the Dampa

Now, this phenomenal brainchild of Simon Lim, Jr, and his best friend Ronald lledan, is going on 30
branches, of which 10 are provincial franchises and 10 are company-owned.

To date, Dampa Express serves around 2,000 customers daily in all their branches combined. "From the
fruit of our labors, we're able to open a private resort in Pampanga, with a giant crab image as tribute to
our success: katas ng alimango [the fruit of selling crabs"

Holding the Title of Dampa King

"We make the biggest order for crabs in this part of the world. At one time, our orders reached P10.5M
worth of crabs"

This unprecedented success as an innovative seafood restaurant that pioneered "affordability,
accessibility, and accelerated service" in the Philippines has earned Simon Lim, Jr, the title of Dampa

The irony here is, I don't cook and neither do l eat crabs," he admitted. "ve been called Mr Alimango,
Mr Dampa, Crab King, or Dampa King because l've successfully brought Dampa Express to communities
and expanded on the dampa concept."

Dampa Express now boasts the biggest number of branches among any Philippine seafood restaurants,
making it the biggest seafood chain in the Philippines. As a result, the seafood resto business is nowa
multi-million industry.

The Dampa King's success goes beyond the marriage of luck and business acumen-a feat that the
media has praised for achieving the perfect balance in maintaining a day job as a gym employee and growing a business-to his earnest desire to help his staff and acquaintances grow with the business and
to always buy local.

"I make it a point to source everything we use and serve from fellow Filipinos. For instance, all our itlog
na maalat [salted duck's egg] and bilao are from Pampanga. We're 100% Pinoy to give back to the

He still buys all of his vegetables from the ambulant vegetable vendor peddling on their street. "He used
to go about pushing a cart then when he started supplying all Dampa Express branches, he was able to
buy a pedicab and now, he's driving a car!

Dampa Express is now accepting franchise and partnership applications nationwide and for overseas as
well. For the full menu, reservation, delivery and more information, please call 0917 5311703 or +632
79441036 or visit@dampaexpress.official on Instagram and Dampa Express on Facebook.

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