It was still a week before payday but the newly renovated Dads on West Avenue, Quezon City, was already filled with people. Diners were going around the different buffet stations, choosing from the wide array of world cuisine, including 70 kinds of sushi.
The selection included South American-style grilled meats, roasted US Angus beef and butterball turkey, Chinese dim sum, Filipino favorites from the iconic restaurant Kamayan, and fresh and cooked Japanese food from Saisaki.
The restaurant and its four other branches have been renamed Dads World Buffet.
Villavicencio, founder of the Triple V chain of restaurants, sat down with Inquirer Lifestyle last week. He explained that the change of name is apt because, aside from now offering diners
“a world of limitless choices, the restaurant business is one that evolves with the times.”
He knows whereof he speaks. Almost 40 years ago, Villavicencio opened Kamayan, a purely short-order Filipino restaurant where diners were obliged to eat with their hands, Pinoy-style. Its success was unprecedented in the 1970s.
Dining in a Filipino-cuisine restaurant has not been the same since then.
Kamayan’s fame was followed by another trailblazing feat—the Saisaki Japanese restaurant. In the ’80s Saisaki put Japanese cuisine in the mainstream of Philippine dining, thanks to the size of the restaurant and the scope of its menu. Generations of Filipinos got their first taste of Japanese food at Saisaki. This was where they experienced eating raw fish and tempura.
Not to be left complacent by the achievements of Kamayan and Saisaki, Villavicencio changed the game yet again in the ’90s. He opened Dads which offered a dizzying number of hot and cold dishes in a buffet setup that were favorites of Villavicencio’s father, Sixto.
“We opened Dads in the early ’90s but I had already begun noticing how much food was being wasted by diners who piled their plates at buffets but couldn’t finish everything on it,” recalled Villavicencio, a businessman known for the way he could blend intuitive wisdom with systems and structures. (It is often noted how Villavicencio didn’t finish college at De La Salle, and instead, in his young adulthood, helped run the family businesses, starting with the school bus business.
He would later say that working as dispatcher of school buses at 5 a.m. every day taught him discipline and systems early on. Coming from the big Vargas clan, he also had early training in restaurants and hotels when he worked in the family’s Villa Adelaida in Tagaytay.
To curb wastefulness, he came up with a “no-leftover” policy in which diners would be charged double the buffet price if there was leftover food on their plates.
“That’s one thing my dad taught us. It was a very strict rule: We had to finish the food on our plates or else we would end up in purgatory,” he recalled.
Although diners at Dads, Kamayan or Saisaki—all buffet restaurants by then—were not issued similar warnings, they learned to eat sensibly. Since then, other buffet restaurants have instituted the same rule.
“If there was anything we tried to contribute to society, then it would be the importance of not letting good food go to waste,” Villavicencio said.
On Aug. 26, the company’s 37th anniversary, there will be a 50-percent discount on the buffet price at all Dads World Buffet branches. Instead of P688 and P888 for lunch and dinner, respectively, diners will only pay P344 or P444.
Villavicencio expects throngs of diners during lunch and dinner so he said there will be either two or three seatings per mealtime. For example, the lunch seatings will be from 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m., 12 p.m.-1.30 p.m. and 1.30 p.m.-2.30 p.m.
“Guests will have to call in advance to reserve a table and they have to indicate whether they prefer the first, second or third
seating. On Aug. 26, we will only seat them once their party is 80 percent complete,” Villavicencio said.
Dads World Buffet branches are at SM Megamall (tel. 6331758, 6363785, 0917-8961757; Glorietta III (8928897 to 98, 0917-8978896), Edsa (7051807, 7228125 or 0917-8988124); Manila (5281723 to 24, 0917-8971722) or West Avenue (3728845, 3743767, 0917-8988844).