Bibingka is the quintessential Filipino snack with a mélange of flavors, sweet, smoky, and savory that has made it a favorite among families particularly during Christmas time.
No name has been more closely associated with the bibingka as the Francisco family which owns Ferino’s Bibingka. For several decades, Ferino’s has been serving up hot delicious bibingkas that have been enjoyed by several generations of Filipino’s. The company has its roots in 1938 with Lolo Ceferino A. Francisco. Lolo Ferino developed the famous Ferino’s galapong recipe during the Second World War.
After the war, Ferino started a small restaurant Ferino’s Café in Pritil, Tondo which served bibingka as their specialty. The restaurant attracted a loyal following due to the unique taste of their galapong mix cooked in the traditional clay pots and charcoal. As word of the business spread it attracted the attention of famous personalities and politicians. This led the restaurant to expand to the Manila Hotel in the 60’s where it was renamed Ferino’s Bibingka.
When Ferino passed away in 1975, the brand lost its popularity and closed down until Ferino’s son Alfredo Francisco, reopened the restaurant. The revived Ferino’s opened in Baclaran, Pasay City in front of the Redemptorist Church where it slowly began to regain its lost prestige. Under Alfredo’s management the business capitalized on the emerging shopping culture in the country to set up stores in the various shopping malls. Ferino’s Bibingka outlets were opened in SM Centerpoint, Megamall, North Edsa and Southmall. He also opened standalone stores in areas like Makati which made the brand popular with the affluent markets.
Alfredo had seven children one of whom was Sonny Emmanuel Francisco who would one day take over the reins of the business. Even as a child, Sonny showed great interest in the business and worked as an usher of the Manila Hotel store. Observing his grandfather‘s work ethic in running his business made a strong impression with Sonny. He noted that despite owning several stores his grandfather continued to go to the market and work in the kitchen.
Growing up he became his father’s partner in running the business taking charge of galapong production for all their stores. “My college days were not spent going to discos or having a good time. I developed strong muscles just by manually mixing the galapong.”
When Alfredo died in 2001, his children continued the business, operating their own bibingka outlets. One of his children Sonny, saw a great opportunity of expanding through franchising.
When they started in 2002, Sonny and and his wife Anne handled all aspects of the business themselves including opening their first store in Robinsons Metroeast. To handle the ever increasing workload the couple divided the responsibilities of running the business Sonny handling strategy and finance while Anne takes charge of operations and quality control.
Through hard work and determination they managed to expand their business eventually attracting franchise inquiries. The decision to enter franchising was a major crossroad for the company with the previous generations of the Francisco family preferring organic growth.
However, they decided to push ahead with franchising realizing the growth potential it offered.
Since they started their franchising program, Ferino’s has grown significantly with 15 stores in various locations.
To grow the business he focused on improving product and customer service while retaining the identity of the bibingka as a native delicacy. “We needed to balance novelty and the changing customers’ preferences,” he says. “Also, there are limitations in the manner we can prepare our product in the different locations where we do our business, so we have to consider those limitations in the cooking process.”
One of the Ferino brand’s primary assets is its traditional style of preparation and taste. That is why they try as much as possible to prepare their bibingkas the traditional charcoal baking particularly for standalone outlets which don’t have the restrictions mall based outlets have. At the same time, they saw the need to innovate and introduce new product lines. They came up with the Extra Super, Super, Special, and Bibingcute variants.
Aside from selling bibingka in stores and malls he also set his sights on the export market capitalizing on the large overseas Filipino population all over the world. Sonny sought the assistance of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to develop an export ready product. The DOST helped him develop and test frozen bibingka for export. The bibingka or export has a shelf life of at least a year, making it viable for export.
A great help in the company’s franchise program was its membership with the Association of Filipino Franchisers Incorporated (AFFI). Sonny says he joined the group and was inducted in 2013 after hearing good things about the group. He says that membership in the group has allowed him to stay updated with the latest developments in the industry. The seminars and fellowship activities organized by AFFI he says has helped him a lot in improving his knowledge of franchising in general.
At the same time, he adds that AFFI membership has helped increase Ferino’s credibility as a franchisor. Also, the group’s annual franchise show provides Ferino’s tremendous exposure to potential franchisees. On the whole, he credits the group with helping his brand achieve its current level of success.
Despite having a product that has remained essentially unchanged for more than seven decades, Sonny sees a bright future for Ferino’s. Sonny says that bibingka is a timeless product that can be marketed to a broad segment of the population. That is why he is setting his sights on expanding overseas particularly in the United States and Canada. They are also looking to get master franchisors in other countries including the ASEAN region.
By staying true to its roots while continuing to innovate, Sonny is ensuring that a new generation will continue to enjoy the legacy handed down by his forebears.
Learn more about Ferino Bibingka’s success story and the group’s franchising opportunities at the 15th Franchise and Business Expo from October 14 to 16 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. The event organized by the Association of Filipino Franchisers Inc. (AFFI) is expected to draw thousands of business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
GoodNewsPilipinas.com is the official online media partner of the Association of Filipino Franchisers’ 15th Franchise and Business Expo.