“Dedication, hard work and discipline are three values you should have. Never give up,” restaurateur Albert Alavera says, on how to run a successful restaurant.
Alavera is the managing director of Specialty Restaurant Inc., the parent company of US-themed restaurants Burgoo and Gumbo. “Food is my life. It’s my passion,” he says, adding that he is inspired by his grandfather who “really cooks good food from seafood to vegetables to meat.”
“This is what I enjoy doing. You can do a thousand and one different recipes,” he says.
Alavera, a resident of Quezon City and Theresa Rodriguez (chairman of SRI) opened the first Burgoo outlet in the country in April 1999 along Tomas Morato extension. “It started in 1999 with Mrs. Tita Rodriguez, who is a restaurateur as well,” he says.
Burgoo was named after the American stew that originated in Kentucky in the 17th Century. Aside from stew, Burgoo serves American burgers, sandwiches and meals in large servings, pastas, pizzas, salads, steaks, barbecues, chicken and seafood grills and desserts.
Alavera says the family restaurant has found its niche by providing customers with the best attention in terms of service, quality food, cleanliness and value-for-money. The chain popularized the Care service, which means “customers are always recognized with extra-special attention.”
Alavera says to render the Care service, Burgoo gives importance to customers’ needs by treating them like family members.
The Care service has enabled Burgoo to establish nearly a dozen branches all over Metro Manila and one in Cavite. He says this kind of service will sustain Burgoo amid rising competition in the coming years.
“Business in 1999 was so different compared today. Then, restaurants were not as plenty. Now, the international franchise entering our market plays a big part of competition,” he says, referring to the recent influx of international brands.
Alavera, who earned a degree in Marketing Management from the University of the East and took culinary courses in Singapore, New Orleans, Barcelona and London, says Burgoo offers “a total of 60 to 70 menu items mostly American, Italian, New Orleans food.”
Burgoo gets its supplies from the international and domestic markets. Alavera says while some supplies are imported, “we make sure 90 percent of our produce, we’re getting locally.”
Burgoo provides meals in large servings such as the house specialty Burgoo stew, a concoction of spring chicken, tenderloin steak and choice pork meats, blended with vegetables such as zucchini.
It serves fried calamari, buffalo chicken wings, supreme nachos, beef or chicken fajitas and Sta. Fe spring rolls or supreme sampler, which is a combination of Burgoo’s appetizers.
Salads include oriental fried chicken salad or seafood Caesar salad. Burgoo’s bestsellers are Oklahoma-style grilled baby back ribs, grilled pork chops, country-style fried chicken and Burgoo kebabs.
The restaurant also takes pride in hamburgoo, a special burger with a mixture of choice chicken, beef and pork. For pasta or pizza, Burgoo has seafood linguini, penne arrabiata, angel hair classico, taco Mexicano and margherita pizza. Its desserts include brownie ala mode or Oreo cheesecake.
Burgoo recently launched new dishes such as cheddar cheese fries, mashed potato Mexicano, boneless buffalo chicken, shrimp popcorn Caesar, Manhattan’s best, taco salad, pizza sampler, fisherman’s delight, chicken teriyaki, chicken diane, seafood au gratin, Szechuan steak linguini, surf and steak, grilled Angus rib eye, grilled porterhouse, steak cacciatore, shrimp and chips, cream dory milanese, shrimp fajitas, tuna sandwich and Oklahoma pulled baby back sandwich.
Most Burgoo outlets have recently undergone renovations to keep up with the taste of the dinning public. The eclectic and New York-inspired designs have been the trademark of Burgoo, created by interior designer Grace Milan of GMM Design.
Brown, violet, green and yellow hues dominate Burgoo restaurants. Burgoo is popular for unique tabletop where one could write or draw.
Helping Alavera and Rodriguez run the Burgoo chain are general manager Eileen Necio, vice chairman Vivencio Rodriguez and directors Monette Salapantan, Maritoni Raymundo, Martin Rodriguez, Michael Rodriguez and Matthew Rodriguez.
Despite the tough competition, Alavera says Burgoo remains on an expansion mode. “We need to expand to cater to the baseline market but we were very careful where to open,” he says.
The company is investing P8 million to P15 million to build a branch, depending on the size and location.
Inside the kitchen, Alavera considers himself a strict manager. “I’m a disciplinarian type of a manager. We follow standards and embrace it all the time,” he says.
He spends most of his time overseeing the business. “I’m always in the restaurant everyday except my rest day. I am working on weekends and holidays as well,” he says.
Outside work, Alavera considers himself a homebody. “I love to see my garden, dogs and birds,” he says.
Alavera says competition in the food sector is expected to be tough over the next five years, with more restaurants opening at shopping malls. He says to keep abreast with the time, he is ready to “open new concepts.”