As a member of the family that founded the iconic Aristocrat restaurant which has been around since 1928, Francisco “Frank” Reyes is aware of what it takes to build a strong foundation for any business. That is why when he established Reyes Barbecue he zeroed in on building a strong corporate culture to ensure that his business stands the test of time.
In 2001, he was set to renew the franchise terms of his stores when the request was denied. The reason was his family’s new policy of no longer granting franchises to family members due to some problems with the other family owned stores. With his franchises set to expire the next year he knew he had to think of a solution quickly.
To solve his dilemma, Reyes looked back to his days spent at the Aristocrat accounting department as a child. “My task is to check the cash register tape readings,” he recalls. “What struck me was that despite the extensive menu list, the consistent best seller was the Chicken Barbecue. That got me to think of the possibility of a restaurant focused on a single barbecue specialty item.” He then decided to convert his stores to specialty establishment that would focus on selling the best barbecue.
With his goal set, Reyes worked to develop his own barbecue formula. As part of his research and development he went around Metro Manila to try out all the barbecue products he could find. He must have tried more than a hundred barbecues, checking out taste, portioning, and shelf life and then benchmarking them against the formulation he was developing. Reyes’s recipe which came out of his extensive efforts was milder in flavor but spicier with compared to the Aristocrat barbecue.
Applying his engineering background, he went around the problems with traditional charcoal grilling by using an electric smokeless grill. He also developed a unique skewering style to ensure standardized and convenient grilling. Finally he developed the “Boneless Chicken Barbecue” which was easier to cook evenly as his signature dish. He also consolidated the notes he took over the years to create his own operations manual.
When it came to coming up with a name for his business he thought of many possible name’s.
But eventually he settled on Reyes Barbecue to capitalize on his family’s solid reputation for good food. “Convincing mall managements to replace my Aristocrat franchise stores with my own untested brand was the next obstacle,” recalls Frank. “But they finally gave me the go signal after much discussion, debate, persuasion, pleading and anxiety.”
As expected, customer resistance to the new concept was initially high and sales dropped. But his persistence paid off after customers were drawn to his store’s good food and distinct identity. Inquiries for franchising began to pour in which he entertained realizing the importance and potential of franchising for growing his business. At the same time, given his limited resources; he couldn’t afford to hire consultants and had to develop his franchise system by himself.
This is where all his prior experience and education came in handy. Having collated all his notes into an operations manual saved him the cost of commissioning a franchise consultant. He also didn’t need an architect or a design agency to design the prototype store thanks to his knowledge in scaled drafting. His experience in restaurant operations and being a former franchisee himself gave him insights on how to run a franchise store.
Together with his wife Inez, they re-engineered the business with a professionalization program for the entire organization. Management systems and processes were established with quality audits for all aspects of operations as well as strengthened training programs. A corporate values system was instituted for the corporate culture they envisioned for the company. The store design and ambience was upgraded including new crew uniforms. Their plans also provided for building a new commissary to supply their expanding network.
While most franchisors set their eyes on growing their store networks, Reyes set his eyes on building a strong foundation that would allow the company to expand and weather any challenges the future brings. As a result, he has stopped expanding large scale in favor of incremental expansion. This is driven by his desire to leave his children with a strong company that they can further grow as his legacy.
Given his constant pursuit of knowledge to improve his business it is no surprise that Reyes chose to join AFFI in 2006. His decision was driven by his realization that franchising is a very complex business and joining would give him the opportunity to get in touch with fellow franchisers. Upon joining he enjoyed benefits such as securing franchisees from the group’s annual trade show. Membership he says has also helped enhanced the value of his brand.
But more than these was the opportunity to glean many insights on the many problems his fellow franchisors face. Through seminars, and discussion sessions he was able to learn a wide variety of things from maximizing commissary operations to managing the temperaments of different franchisees to dealing with the dynamic nature of consumer marketing.
Learn more about Reyes Barbecue’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.