Turks marks 15th year with first drive-thru store, over 600 outlets nationwide
When Gem L. Zeñarosa, the owner of the phenomenal 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, an ambitious goal that requires knowledge of a unique marketing mix, cut-out business plan, and sufficient capital.
He and his wife had no experience in the food business but were teeming with faith and hoped they would succeed in their affairs.
During their start-up years, the only element of marketing Zeñarosa was concerned about was their product, so he put all 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 requirements. Also, I wanted to make sure to buy the best ingredients for my product, so I did the supplies purchasing by myself,” he said.
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 Zeñarosa’s daily routine back then. He also handled logistics, delivering from mall to mall daily, ensuring that supplies were provided to his branches before the mall opened.
Turks soon became a household name and a delicious habit among Filipinos. It did not take long for the company to grow, and the Zeñarosas had to deal with a problem any business owner would want to be in — higher demand for supply.
“One of the problems we encountered, especially during the first years of our operations, was to address the astonishingly high demand for our product. We kept increasing our daily supply, but we were always sold out before the mall closed. We had to come up with quick adjustment and expansion in our commissary to keep up with the customers’ demand,” Zeñarosa recounted.
There was even a time when Zeñarosa did not sleep for two straight days, continuously working through shift after shift 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,” Zeñarosa said.
Today, Turks’ production team utilizes modern food processing equipment and practices high health and sanitation standards in food handling in compliance with FDA regulations. The bread machine is fully automated and can produce thousands of pita bread daily.
Inevitably, like most businesses, Turks also suffered financial losses during the pandemic, which started in the first quarter of 2020.
“The pandemic was unprecedented, and it hit us all by surprise. We had no idea such a 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,” Zeñarosa explained.
“Fortunately, most of our branches reopened, and we’re delighted that people continue to patronize our product. We also capitalized on food delivery service through aggregators such as Grab Food, which helped keep our business afloat. Sales are not yet at the same level as before the pandemic, but we’re hoping to reach that level or even surpass that soon.”
To cater to more customers who, aside from quality, demand convenience to suit their busy schedules, the company achieved another milestone for its 15th anniversary. The first drive-thru concept store of Turks recently opened at White Plains, Quezon City, making Turks’ 15th-anniversary celebration sweeter than ever.
This plan had been in the pipeline for quite some time, even before the pandemic broke out. The global health emergency only validated Zenarosa’s plan to venture into the drive-thru segment geared towards increased customers’ convenience, comfort, and safety.
The White Plains store features a contemporary design with a high ceiling and a giant industrial fan as its main feature. Seating capacity is limited to 10 seats only, and the overall look projects an airy and comfortable atmosphere for the diners. A dedicated bicycle rack is also available to cater to bike enthusiasts.
Turks has more than 600 stores nationwide and will open an 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 Hong Kong last 2020 but were sidetracked by the pandemic. With the easing of travel restrictions and reopening the borders, we hope to finally push through with this plan.”
According to Zeñarosa, his company’s success is ultimately not attributable to any marketing formula or business strategy he may have designed. It is anchored on prayers, sacrifices, commitment, hard work, and, most of all, faith in God.
“All my plans are anchored on my faith. My company’s actions are borne from the strength and direction I draw from God,” he said.
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