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Next-generation inheritors tell family restaurant’s story

When it comes to the secret ingredient, there’s no secret. It’s really hard work and perseverance. I would like to add humility in serving the food, and providing that wonderful experience to every customer they touch

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Michael Martinez and Patricia Tan share their stories on Conti’s’ humble beginnings and how they will continue to make the restaurant flourish under their care.

How a small family restaurant flourished into a well-loved heritage brand, elevating the palate and dining experience of many Filipinos, is a story the second-generation Conti’s heads recall with fondness.

Patricia Tan, general manager, and Michael Martinez, head of Business Development, witnessed the success of the brand and gathered insights along the way.

They said it was the entrepreneurial influence and industry of the Conti’s matriarch that inspired the founders. “My mom and aunts carried in their genes Lola’s entrepreneurial character. Lola would ride the bus and go to other people’s offices, sneaking in to sell peanuts in meetings. She was not shy about it. It was the very first Conti’s even without the logo yet,” Tan recalls.

She also recalled her first memory of Conti’s which was with her grandmother. During the first Christmas of Conti’s launch, Lola wrapped the ensaymadas by hand meticulously.

Martinez’s first memory of Conti’s was in his aunt Carole’s home, which they called the “Tirona House” and eventually turned into a bakery and warehouse.

Every week, he would go there and see how stacked it would become, as more people started ordering the food they served. Conti’s started in a home kitchen before they made a real official restaurant on President’s Avenue, in the BF Commercial area.

Influence on all senses
While it was their Lola’s passion for cooking and talent for selling that built the foundation of the family business, the two younger members contributed their own influences.

“Conti’s influenced me in all aspects and in all senses. I remember how shy I was about our car smelling like Garlic Sotanghon all the time. Of course, it went away as I matured and recognized that this was what was keeping my mom happy. The ‘Tirona House’ (Martinez) mentioned eventually became a bakeshop with a room to sleep in because it was full of boxes,” Tan said.

Michael (left most) and Patricia (right most) during a Conti’s store opening.

The three founders worked hard to combine their individual strengths to come up with the best offerings with their blood and sweat. Martinez relates that his mom would leave for work really early but would make sure she would be home in time for dinner. The dedication is evident to this day.

The value lives on 
“In terms of values, the founders are the kind of individuals who believe in honest-to-goodness business. They have a strong passion to delight customers with either the product they provide or the service they deliver. When it comes to the secret ingredient, there’s no secret. It’s really hard work and perseverance. I would like to add humility in serving the food, and providing that wonderful experience to every customer they touch. My Tita Carole told me this before, ‘make something that looks and tastes premium but affordable.’

“It’s never been about money, margins or profit. It’s about making people happy through our good food because it’s a catalyst for gatherings and family time. In terms of the values, it’s something that’s unseen. It’s being God-centered because behind all the hard work and the success, it was really through prayers,” Tan reiterated.

photographs courtesy of conti’s

As the lead in Business Development, Martinez believes change is constant and so do the founders. They were naturally on the front of food trends, traveling abroad and looking at what’s good to create something similar that would go with the Filipino taste.

“Speaking on behalf of my role, I think the speed of us being able to reach more communities and families outside Metro Manila, Luzon and even nationwide really excites me and the team.

Eventually, we want Conti’s to become a heritage brand that every Filipino will be proud of, like how overseas Filipino workers will cherish us as a home away from home.

“I feel it’s such a big responsibility being here as a second generation because they’ve trusted us. We’ve seen the brand grow, and we’ve seen the brand flourish. Some things will not change such as the values that were embedded in us as the children of the founders,” Tan said.

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