When Gem L. Zeñarosa, the owner of Turks, and his wife, Angel, started their humble business 15 years ago; all they had in mind was to make Turks an integral part of the Philippines’ biggest shopping malls. This goal was ambitious, though, and required knowledge of an exceptional marketing mix, a cut-out business plan, and sufficient capital. While he and his wife had no experience in the food business, they were teeming with faith and hope that they would succeed in their affairs.
During their start-up years, the only element of marketing he was concerned about was their product. As such, he put all of his efforts into coming up with an affordable yet tasty pita wrap that customers would crave for.
“I remember the sleepless nights formulating the recipes and preparing the pita bread, sauces and meat. I only had a handful of staff during the first years of my business so I had to do most of the work requirement. Also, I wanted to make sure to buy the best ingredients for my product so I did the supplies purchasing by myself,” Gem reminisces.
Navigating through Balintawak Market early in the morning, scouring for quality raw materials, and carrying sacks of onions and cucumbers on his shoulders were part of Gem’s daily routine back then. He also handled logistics, delivering from mall to mall each day, and ensuring that supplies are delivered to his branches before the mall opens.
Sticking to his simple plan, it turned in a direction he could never have envisioned. Turks soon became a household name and an appetizing habit among Filipinos that stirred a buying behavior from the public. It did not take long for the company to grow rapidly that they had to deal with a problem any business owner would want to be in: a higher demand for supply.
“One of the problems we encountered especially during the first years of our operations is to address the astonishingly high demand for our product. We kept on increasing our daily supply but we always sold out even before the mall closes. We had to come up with quick adjustments and expansions in our commissary in order to keep up with the customers’ demand,” Gem recounts.
There was even a time when he didn’t sleep for two straight days, continuously working through shifts after shifts because he joined the commissary’s production team in making pita bread. “The most challenging and tiring experiences I had running this business are the same memories that bring me joy. Because I know that the tradeoff was the satisfaction of our customers and our franchisees as well,” Zeñarosa says.
Today, Turks’ production team utilizes modern equipment in food processing and practices high standards of health and sanitation in food handling in compliance with FDA regulations. Their bread machine is fully automated and can produce thousands of pita bread in a day.
Inevitably, just like most businesses, Turks also suffered financial losses during the pandemic which started on the first quarter of 2020. “The pandemic was unprecedented and it hit us all by surprise. We had no idea that such thing could ever happen to the whole world in this lifetime. We had to close down permanently some of our stores particularly those located in office buildings, schools and hospitals,” Gem shares.
However, as a man of faith, he drew his strength from God. This enabled him to stay strong during these difficult times. And it was all by God’s grace that Turks continues to thrive during the pandemic. “Fortunately, the majority of our branches reopened and we’re delighted that people continue to patronize our product. We also capitalized on food delivery service thru aggregators such as Grab Food and this helped to keep our business afloat. Our sales are not yet on the same level as prior to the pandemic but we’re hoping to reach that level or even surpass that soon,” Gem says.
To cater to more customers who, aside from quality, demand convenience to suit their busy schedules, the company achieved another milestone for their 15 th anniversary. The first Drive-Thru concept store of Turks recently opened in White Plains, Quezon City, making Turks’ 15 th anniversary celebration sweeter than ever. This plan has been in the pipeline for quite some time even before the pandemic broke out. And the presence of the global health emergency has only validated their plan to venture in the drive-thru segments gearing towards increased customers’ convenience, comfort, and safety.
The White Plains store features a contemporary design with high ceiling and a giant industrial fan as its main feature. Seating capacity is limited to 10 seats only. The overall look projects an airy and comfortable atmosphere for the diners. A dedicated bicycle rack is also available to cater to bike enthusiasts. Right now, Turks has more than 600 stores nationwide and will open additional 12 branches, with international expansion already in the pipeline.
“Globalization is the next target for Turks. We’re hoping to start our international operations this year. We were supposed to open in the US and HK last 2020 but was sidetracked by the pandemic. With the easing of travel restrictions and reopening of the borders, we hope to finally push thru with this plan.”
On top of all these, Gem accords their success to the grace God has endowed them over the years. According to him, the success his company enjoys is not attributed to any marketing formula or business strategy that he may have designed, it is anchored on prayers, sacrifices, commitment, hard work, and most of all, faith in God.
For him, everything that he has, every success, every little thing that displays his victories can only be attributed to the Lord who establishes his plans. “All my plans are anchored on my faith. My company’s course of actions are borne from the strength and direction I draw from God,” Gem says.
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