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Meet eight self-made foodservice millionaires

By: Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Success in the restaurant business is notoriously challenging, but that’s not to say that it’s out of reach. These eight entrepreneurs have turned their passion – and our appetites – into some of the world’s most successful foodservice businesses. Here’s what we can learn from them.

Have a look a those million-dollar lessons from 8 Selfmade-Millionairs in foodservice:
  1. Find opportunity in adversity
  2. Leverage what’s trending
  3. Take smart risks
  4. Understand the power of marketing, and tell your story
  5. Know your market
  6. Find what drives you
  7. Value collaboration
  8. Don’t be afraid to start small

1. Tony Tan Caktiong, Jollibee Food

In 1975, Tony Tan Caktiong founded Jollibee Food, now one of the fastest-growing Asian restaurant chains in the world. The business began as an ice cream store in the Philippines and has since become a globally successful restaurant, adapting Filipino, Chinese, American, and European dishes for the quick-service format. Today, Jollibee Food has more than 3,300 restaurants in the Philippines and more than 2,500 internationally.

 

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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Jollibee (@jollibee)

Caktiong was born in China, and his family immigrated to the Philippines in search of opportunity. “Innovation starts in our minds,” Caktiong told the APEC SME Summit. “Our mindsets determine what we’re able to accomplish. The story of Jollibee Food Corp is a story of finding opportunity amidst difficult times.”

Million-dollar lesson: find opportunity in adversity

 

2. Mr Beast, Mr Beast Burger

Jimmy Donaldson, also known as Mr Beast, is a 24-year-old YouTube star with a total online following of 166 million. In 2020, he brought his brand into the foodservice space with the launch of MrBeast Burger, a virtual kitchen model in partnership with Virtual Dining Concepts. The brand began in 300 locations and has since expanded to over 600 locations across the US, Canada, and the UK.

Mr Beast mobilized his YouTube reputation, which is built on philanthropic stunts, with a launch event during which burgers were given away for free and customers were even offered money. Since then, MrBeast Burger has become a stand-out example of the potential of virtual dining concepts.

Million-dollar lesson: leverage what’s trending

 

3. Carlos Castro, Todos Supermarket

Carlos Castro founded the Todos supermarket chain in Washington, US, after immigrating from El Salvador in 1980.

When he first came to the US, Castro began as a dishwasher. He opened the first Todos market in 1990, with the aim to serve the community. Today, Todos supermarkets still offer services including money transfers, taxes, and a free taxi ride home with purchases over US$75.

“I took the risk because I was thinking that since I had nothing when I was growing up, going back to nothing did not really scare me,” Castro told the Institute of Immigrant Research at George Mason University.

Million-dollar lesson: take smart risks

 

4. Jazmine Moore, Green Panther Chef

Founded by Jazmine ‘Chef Jaz’ Moore, Green Panther Chef has been the premiere cannabis caterer in the Washington DC area since 2017.

 

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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Green Panther Chef LLC (@greenpantherchef)

After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2006 during her last year of culinary college, Chef Jaz decided to apply her culinary training to cannabis research. She developed Green Panther Chef, a wellness company offering a full-service cannabis catering experience as well as live online cooking classes. Chef Jaz has successfully leveraged social media, especially Instagram, to supercharge her marketing.

In 2022, Chef Jaz told Handheld Radio, “I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I started the business as Jaz the caterer around 2009. I’m learning the synergy between cannabis and food, and I’m very intentional about how I cook with cannabis.”

Million-dollar lesson: understand the power of marketing, and tell your story

 

5. Zong Qinghou, Hangzhou Wahaha Group

Since 1989, Zong Quinghou has turned Hangzhou Wahaha Group into one of China’s largest homegrown sellers of bottled water, teas, and milk drinks. Meaning ‘laughing child’, Hangzhou Wahaha began as a mini grocery store selling beverages to schoolchildren. By 1991, it had gained manufacturing premises and became the Hangzhou Wahaha Group Corporation.

Today, Hangzhou Wahaha employs around 10,000 workers and distributes more than 30 varieties of products. Despite his huge success, Zong is known for his humble way of life, preferring simple foods and clothing.

Million-dollar lesson: know your market

 

6. Daniel Zakowski, Ready, Set, Food!

Daniel Zakowski is the CEO and co-founder of Ready, Set, Food!, a patented system of allergen introduction for babies. Ready Set Food! was founded in 2017 after Zakowski’s nephew developed life-threatening food allergies.

 

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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Ready, Set, Food! (@readysetfood)

“80% of food allergies can be prevented through early and sustained allergen introduction,” Zakowski told startup.info. “Our mission is to give parents the tools to protect their baby from a food allergy.”

Million-dollar lesson: find what drives you

 

7. Louis Le Duff,  Groupe Le Duff

Louis Le Duff opened his first restaurant-bakery in a Quebec ski resort while studying abroad. In 1976, he opened his first Brioche Dorée bakery in Brittany.

Now operating more than 440 bakeries and restaurants, with more than 7,500 employees, the Groupe Le Duff serves around 270,000 customers per day. Its restaurants are known for their friendly atmosphere and high-quality food.

 

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“Nothing set me up to one day appear on the list of Breton and French success stories,” Le Duff told the podcast L’Epopée de…, “Recruit, train and motivate men and women. That’s the key to the future because we cannot succeed alone.”

Million-dollar lesson: value collaboration

 

8. Marian Ilitch, Little Caesars

In 2017, Marian Ilitch became the richest female self-made billionaire in the US. She is the co-founder of Little Caesars pizza, along with her husband Mike. Having begun as a single, family-owned pizza store, Little Caesars is now the third-largest pizza chain in the world, operating in more than 27 countries and territories globally.

Ilitch is the daughter of Macedonian immigrants and began in the food industry as a young child, helping in her father’s restaurant. Little Caesars has the mission to be “the best take-home pizza chain by exceeding customer expectations with extraordinary value, great tasting products and outstanding people.”

Million-dollar lesson: don’t be afraid to start small

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