Interview: Dave Quisumbing, owner and CEO of Mr. Q’s Food Products
Whether he’s bartending or taking business calls, Mr Q. wants to make his mom proud
From bartending to owning two businesses, life is busy for entrepreneur Dave Quisumbing. Ever since he decided to start his own company in his senior year of college, his vision has been to continue his late mother’s legacy by sharing his family BBQ sauce recipe with the world – and with Mr. Q’s Food Products going from strength to strength, he’s well on his way to achieving his goal.
We caught up with Dave to learn more about how Mr. Q’s got up and running, how he handles his busy schedule, and what makes his famous Filipino BBQ sauce so unique.
Where did the idea for starting your own sauce company come from?
I attended Rutgers University with the goal and vision of becoming a physician assistant. In my senior year, months before I graduated with honors, I had a sudden change of heart. I decided I wanted to be my own boss; to start my own company from scratch and work my way up. Since my early childhood years, family and friends have always loved my mother’s Filipino BBQ recipe, so I decided to move forward with starting a business with a product that is important to me.
How did you get started?
After graduating, I really didn’t know a thing about running a sauce business. I quickly realized it’s a very competitive industry that requires a lot of capital. So, I decided to work several part-time jobs as a waiter and bartender to be able to save enough money for production with a copacker. From there, I perfected the recipe, created the design for my label, and had dozens of jars filled. I launched my website, and have since been using social media platforms and word of mouth to help promote Mr. Q’s BBQ Sauce.
How did you come up with the recipe for Mr. Q’s BBQ Sauce?
It all started in 1991 when I was only five years old. My mom and the Samahan Filipino Community Group decided to take part in a local event called “Ethnic Day”. Back then, it was a huge festival for our little town of Carteret, designed to bring all of its diverse population together as a platform to share their cultures.
Some brought their beautiful rituals and dances while others brought blankets, clothes, and jewelry to sell. My mom brought the garlicky-sweet taste of the Filipino barbecue stick – and it took over the whole event. Year after year, we would bring so much more marinated barbecue than the year before, and year after year, we would completely sell out.
What’s the most daunting thing about starting a new foodie business?
The amount of competition. There are so many other larger companies that have much bigger budgets than I do, which makes them able to market and drive their costs lower through larger productions. Also, getting into larger supermarket chains such as Wegman’s and ShopRite is tough. Because Mr. Q’s is a smaller company, it is difficult to get my product out there with all the competitors already on the shelves. In addition, the amount of money and cash flow required to start and survive in the industry is stressful, but extremely important.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
When you’re the owner, you have to do everything. I am partnered in Sweetberry Bowls and Greenrock in Hoboken, New Jersey, I’m the owner and CEO of Mr. Q’s food products, and I’m the owner of Mr. Q’s Island Eats. I also part-time bartend at some of the busiest places in New Jersey, including Porta Asbury Park, Bar Anticipation in Lake Como, and my bar in Hoboken.
A typical day would include checking on my businesses, making sure my employees and my customers are satisfied, packing boxes with my Mr. Q’s BBQ Sauce and sending out shipments. I work 5-8 hours behind the bar, as well as promoting my products and my bars on social media. Gmail is always open on my phone and computer, and I also take many business calls throughout the day. With multiple businesses and being an entrepreneur, you always have to be marketing yourself, and planning for the next step.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love interacting with and being around people, and all my jobs allow me to do this in some way. I also love putting smiles on people’s faces, so dealing with food and being behind a bar allows me to do this as well.
What makes Mr. Q’s BBQ Sauce unique?
Definitely the taste and flavor. It is sweet, but not too sweet, and has a hint of garlic which is not overpowering to the taste buds. It’s also great because you can put it on anything – from salmon and chicken to vegetables. And you can cook it any way, too.
How do you make sure the Mr. Q’s food truck stands out from the competition?
Consistency and friendliness. That same great bite you get the first time must be the same if you come back a week or a month later – and everything must be served with a smile.
What’s your favourite recipe using Mr. Q?
Mr. Q’s meat sticks (pork) over jasmine white rice, with a garlic vinegar.
What can we look forward to in the future from Mr. Q?
Being in every major local supermarket. We are also coming out with a spicy recipe and a BBQ ketchup, so stay tuned.
Favorite Filipino food:
Other than my BBQ? Lumpia, sinigang and adobo.
Cookies, candy, doughnuts... pretty much anything sweet.
Chicken parmigiana, pizza, sushi or a burger and fries.
Best place you’ve ever eaten:
My mom’s kitchen.
Which country’s food is the best?
Italy, America, Mexico, China, Japan… I can’t choose.
Favorite comfort/hangover food:
Pizza, bar food or bacon, egg and cheese.
Ultimate guilty pleasure food:
Cake and ice cream.
Food you can’t stand:
White condiments (mayo, ranch dressing, blue cheese, sour cream). It’s weird, I know.
Mr. Q’s meat sticks. I’m waiting to challenge Bobby Flay to a cook-off...