How Cravings restaurant started
MANILA – Mother and daughter tandem Susana “Annie” Guerrero and Marinela “Badjie” Guerrero-Trinidad never imagined that their love for food would lead to the establishment of one of the most enduring homegrown restaurants today.
From being a small dining spot along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City 25 years ago, Cravings now boasts of more than 30 outlets, a culinary center and a hospitality school. The brand has also expanded to house other concepts, from coffee shops to restaurants specializing in Filipino cuisine.
Even with all these, they show no signs of slowing down. Soon, Cravings will open a breakfast concept.
As part of their silver year celebration, Annie and Badjie opened the doors of their home in La Vista, Quezon City to selected members of the media to share with them the story behind Cravings, and what lies ahead for the 25-year-old restaurant.
Of Pyrex and elections
Cooking, it seems, runs in the Guerrero family. Badjie developed her love for food from Annie who, in turn, learned how to cook from her mother, a Home Economics teacher.
Annie, a housewife, recalled how people in her neighborhood would bring their Pyrex dishes to her home and pay her so these could be filled with food. This eventually rubbed off on Badjie, who sold lemon squares and other baked goods since high school.
The two were happy with the setup because nothing goes to waste and they have control over their schedule. One bulk order, however, made them realize that it was time to open their own restaurant.
In 1987, Annie and Badjie were asked to prepare 8,000 meals, and they were able to deliver without the facilities and staff.
“That convinced us that we could open. That’s 8,000 without the facilities and the people. Nag-cure kami ng pork chop, nag-pickle kami ng mga veggies,” shared Annie, who seemed amazed how she and her daughter were able to achieve such a feat.
Hard hat promotion
With a start-up capital of P300,000 – P250,000 went to a Eurofour oven – Annie and Badjie put up Cravings in 1988 in an old adobe house along Katipunan Avenue.
All the furniture in the new restaurant came from their house to cut costs.
“It was an old house, it was made of adobe. There used to be a parking lot for construction equipment so we had a driveway, then it has a structure at the back,” Badjie said.
“There were two sections, two sides. One side was the baking area, we baked croissants, French bread, and all the other house specials. The other one was a gourmet takeout. The idea was mothers could drop by and buy food by the half gallon, mga menudo, pork asado,” she added.
Students from schools within the area – Ateneo de Manila University, Miriam College and University of the Philippines-Diliman – eventually found out about Cravings, with many of them starting to eat at the parking lot.
“The students came and they started eating in the parking lot. And my mom said, ‘nagkakalat yata sila.’ So sabi niya, ‘why don’t you set up chairs and tables outside?’ So we added more chairs and tables. That’s why we always had that hard hat promotion because we were forever under construction,” Badjie said, laughing.
Annie chimed in, saying, “’Yung table namin ‘yung may mga zipper pa, ‘yung may lagayan ng tip. May pocket.”
The first menu
Back in the 1980s, one can buy a serving of Cravings’ famous Mocha Praline for only P6.50; Grilled Spareribs with Rice and Veggies for P34; and a Pot Roast Sandwich for P28.
Annie and Badjie were able to keep copies of their old menus, with the two planning to offer some of their bestsellers at 1980s prices this month as part of the restaurant’s “Throwback Cravings” promo.
“In our first menu, P6 ang coffee. Cheesecake was P18. Every morning, we prepare all the orders and during lunchtime, we supervise. I always remember, ako lagi ‘yung nagka-cashier, nagmo-monitor,” Badjie recalled.
“Tapos ‘yung mga order namin handwritten talaga. We knew all of our customers.”
Back then, all they wanted was to match the level of success achieved by Sweet Haven, a popular bakeshop in Katipunan.
Cravings, however, eventually surpassed Sweet Haven and went on to become one of the biggest homegrown concepts in the Philippines today.
The idea behind the restaurant’s name is to make customers remember that it is a place where they can satisfy their cravings, shared Badjie, who added that they found it the most appropriate name for a bakeshop.
If not for Cravings, their 25-year-old restaurant would have been called Orange Tree or Olive Tree.
While they are hoping to run the Cravings Group as long as they can, Annie and Badjie admitted that they are already considering the possibility of passing it on to their younger family members, saying that they are not getting any younger.
Badjie, in particular, noted how her daughters are already showing interest in the food industry.
“But we won’t force them. It’s too early,” she said.
For now, the two are busy with Cravings’ 25th anniversary celebrations, which will last for a year.
Asked about their secret to a successful business, Annie said: “Blood, sweat and tears. Wala talagang shortcut. Preparation is everything.”