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The reinvention of a classic

FOR MORE than four decades, the New Davao Famous Restaurant, known for serving a mix of Chinese fares and Filipino comfort food, has been part of many Dabawenyos’ lives. Some have celebrated their birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and other special occasions, while many enjoyed an afternoon snack of their ever-popular siopao.   

Davao Famous’ siopao, a popular snack loved by Dabawenyos for decades now

“Our restaurant opened in 1980 by our grandparents and business partners – Haw Tiong Po, Go Suan Kang and Co Go Lerum  – Chinese migrants from China’s Fujian Province,” shared Anthony Jason V. Li, the restaurant’s president and CEO, a third generation from the Haw clan. 

It was then registered as” Davao Famous Restaurant Company, Inc.” with the word “New” added only in 1997. In 2013, the Li family, descendants of Haw Tiong Po, bought the majority of the company’s shares and assumed control of management and operations. 

“I took over the company when we moved back to Davao from the US in September 2020, the start of what we call the ‘Davao Famous 3.0 era,’” said Li, whose wife, Mary Anne, actively functions as company COO. 

Anthony Jason and Mary Ann Li

When assumed responsibility for the company, they resolved that it was time for it to undergo a fresh makeover. 

“It was a combination of feedback we got from diners and our personal observation to bring back the glory of Davao Famous it once had in the 80s to 90s. In order for us to do so, we needed to keep up with the times, starting with modernizing our facilities inside and out,” he disclosed. 

As they continue to serve their diners their all-time favorites, such as their siopao and artisanal noodles (made in-house), including their lomi, gulami, satemi and canton guisado, they are also currently doing product development, exploring new dishes, and creating variants of existing ones. 

Pancit lomi, one of the artisanal noodles that they produce in-house

“As we continue to grow the Davao Famous brand, we want to be clearer on who our customers are and focus on serving them, in ways that are specific to their needs and wants”,  revealed Li. 

Recognizing the growing trend for fast casual dining, they recently launched ChinoyChow, a virtual spin-off – a “younger brother” – of Davao Famous that serves affordable, on-the-go meals at the Poblacion Market Central. 

“We offer more ‘sulit’ and budget-friendly Chinoy comfort food that can be enjoyed any time of the day,” he said. 

This included new products, such as arroz caldo and mami, an effort t to “revive the old school, hot soup station experience,” while attempting to “harmonize nostalgia with modern day living” while customers “see the action” as part of the dining experience.

“As the Davao market continues to expand, we definitely see franchising as the most efficient business model to help us execute our expansion plan,” Li said, citing their Obrero branch as an example – a franchise but still owned by their family. 

The Li couple with members of the print and online media

Asked about how his generation can sustain the decades-long success of their legacy restaurant, he responded that would be by “staying true to who they truly are, knowing where they’re good at, and what they can offer, and placing absolute importance in providing value to their customers”. 

“From good food to service to cozy ambiance, we commit to ultimately provide a delightful dining experience. Our family-style dining has allowed us to take part in these shared experiences, which turn into happy memories as part of our customers’ lives, ” he added. 

Their mix of nostalgia and modern Chinoy interior

Out of curiosity, we asked how their grandparents came up with their restaurant’s name, Li replied in jest: “Honestly, to this day, no one from the second generation has given me a definitive answer. 

New Davao Famous now has 4 branches: R. Magsaysay, Matina, Obrero, and the recently opened SM Lanang branch. 



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