Thursday, September 23, 2010

Soup is good food...and business

Soup is good food... and business
Business World Online
September 23, 2010

Adelfa Lepura Borro
President and CEO
Ted’s Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy

The humble batchoy -- comfort food to many Ilonggos -- has become the iconic food of Iloilo. A bowl of steaming batchoy may look appetizing yet simple but, if one digs deeper, you will find an interesting story of an entrepreneur and his progeny.

Teodoro "Ted" Lepura invested all of his 10 pesos to start his eatery in a public market. He served what became his signature dish -- La Paz batchoy. While the soup originates from the town of La Paz, Mr. Lepura perfected its broth and added round noodles called meke. This was way back in 1945 when he sold batchoy at 20 centavos a bowl.

Among his children, it would be his daughter Adelfa (now Borro) who would inherit both his penchant for cooking and entrepreneurial spirit. At 10, she was already trained to be the cook and templadora (one who mixes and adjusts the taste of the broth). To this day, she has maintained the original flavor of her father’s famous batchoy or as what others may say, "just like the old times." Indeed, a bowl of Ted’s Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy holds much history.

For as long as he was alive, Mr. Lepura lorded over his kitchen. Ms. Borro took over managing the business only after acquiring her Commerce degree from the Western Institute of Technology in 1973. By that time, the business had grown from its stall in the La Paz Public Market into a full-fledged restaurant called Ted’s Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy. Mrs. Borro’s skills in the kitchen and her inherent understanding of the Filipino merienda mentality were instrumental in helping the business thrive.

"One of the things we needed to ensure was a consistent ’old-timer taste’ for every bowl of batchoy," she relates. "Some of our loyal patrons had been coming to us for years and we couldn’t disappoint them."

Banking on the Filipino habit of merienda (mid-morning or late afternoon snacks), Mrs. Borro decided to use her own savings and a bank loan to expand the family business. She opened a branch on Valeria Street, Iloilo City in 1985.

At first, the restaurant served batchoy with puto or pan de sal as side dishes. She started to introduce batchoy options like other choices of noodles. She also came up with Namit (Yummy) Meals, All-Day Breakfast Meals and Pancit Guisado Specials. These new products were well-received by customers, kept competitors at bay and generated more sales for businesses.

"Sipag (hard work), tiyaga (perseverance) at tibay ng loob (guts)," Mrs. Borro says, are the necessary ingredients to success.

These values have continually pushed Ted’s to its steady growth. Seeing that the business was gaining a major foothold in the market, she started streamlining operations in 2002 by establishing a company profile and formalizing the operations manual. A year later, Mrs. Borro embarked on a more aggressive expansion route through franchising. Ted’s Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy now has 12 franchises all over the Philippines in addition to 23 company-owned restaurants.

However, expanding the business came with its own set of challenges. When the company decided to open a branch in Mindanao, they were faced with a non-pork eating clientele. Mrs. Borro responded by introducing the beef batchoy.

"Although the basic ingredient is beef, it still has the rich meaty taste and distinct flavor of the original recipe. You can barely tell the difference!" she enthuses.

The beef batchoy became a huge hit and is now offered in all Ted’s branches nationwide.

Ted’s Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy has already become a household name in the food industry with branches all over the country and still growing.

Yet Mrs. Borro has never been one to rest on her laurels. Understanding the need to nurture the business into the future, she began to explore the next stage in Ted’s evolution. She initiated renovations at all her restaurants, outfitting then with modern decor and architecture.

In keeping with the times, she started exploring the cafe concept where ambience and comfort complement delicious and affordable food. When Ted’s opened its newest branch on May 16, 2010 at Diversion Road in Iloilo City, this cafe concept was adopted. The food offerings now include a variety of coffee concoctions and an assortment of cakes and pastries for Dulgie’s -- Ted’s sister company owned by Mrs. Borro’s daughter, Allen Mae. Eventually, steaks and grilled specialties will be worked into the menu.

These innovations helped Mrs. Borro score a coup for Ted’s; the concept became popular not only among longtime patrons but also among the young and upwardly mobile crowd. She is also looking at ways to target home consumers.

Working close-ly with the Department of Science and Technology, Mrs. Borro is planning to develop an instant noodle version of the famed dish. She is confident that the product will stay true to the taste of the original La Paz batchoy. Richer in flavor and fuller in taste, Mrs. Borro believes that her instant La Paz Batchoy will be unlike any other being sold in the market.

Ted’s Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy has been recognized for its excellent reputation and customer service. In 2005, it was declared the Best La Paz Batchoy by the National Shoppers’ Choice Awards. Mrs. Borro is committed to maintaining this position by focusing her efforts on continuously enhancing product quality, restaurant ambience and customer service.

"I always remind my employees that their good service reflects not only on the business but on the Ilonggo culture where good food must be prepared and served with the highest quality," she emphasizes.

She also believes in adopting a hands-on management approach to running the business. "As an entrepreneur," she reasons, "you have to stay on top of operations and know every aspect of the business. Being hands-on is crucial in driving business growth."

A formidable business figure in her own right, Mrs. Borro has come a long way from being her father’s little kitchen helper. Now the visionary behind Ted’s Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy, Mrs. Borro knows all too well the value of hard work and perseverance. Of all the lessons Adelfa Lepura Borro has learned since taking over Ted’s Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy, the most lasting is that a strong belief in oneself and the fearlessness to take on calculated risks can do wonders for the business. Her father’s legacy has taught her that good old hard work almost always results in abundance.

"As an entrepreneur, you have your work cut out for you. And yet all you really need is the determination to see it through," she says.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2010 is sponsored by SAP Philippines. The official airline is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, operating on behalf of the Air-France KLM Group in the Philippines. Media sponsors are BusinessWorld and the ABS-CBN News Channel.


The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2010 has concluded its search for the country’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines is a program of the SGV Foundation, Inc. with the participation of co-presenters De La Salle University, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine Business for Social Progress, Philippine Stock Exchange and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.