“AS EARLY as in elementary school, I already knew what I wanted — to be successful, to be independent,” Maritel Nievera, 60, recalls about her childhood.
Armed with this ambition and a love for good food, she overcame challenges in life and in business to become one of Philippines’ leading restaurateurs.
Ms. Nievera recalls that as a child she would watch her grandmother and mother work hard to sell home-cooked goods.
As a young girl, she exhibited her entrepreneurial skills by selling rubber bands that she would win in games and renting out comic books. In high school, she upgraded her goods and sold personalized plastic rings and underwear sourced from Divisoria.
She married at 17, became a young mother and shelved her dream of becoming an artist/designer to dedicate her time to a small business, Bahay Pasalubong. She helped grow the business, expanding all over Pampanga and opening a kiosk in Manila.
Eventually, she put up her first restaurant, Ituro mo, Iluto ko, in San Fernando.
With the success of her businesses in Pampanga, Ms. Nievera decided to bring the unique Kapampangan flavor to Metro Manila. She opened the very first Cabalen restaurant in 1986, with the concept of a high-end turo-turo, along West Avenue in Quezon City.
Her next move was to open a second branch inside a mall. At the time, most restaurateurs were skeptical about opening branches inside malls. Ms. Nievera, however, saw an opportunity to explore an untapped market. Taking the risk proved fruitful as her first mall branch drew crowds.
However, the case was different when she opened her third branch in Makati City. Apart from realizing that the high-end market is difficult to please, many of her contemporaries had shifted to buffet-style dining.
“That hit us hard,” Ms. Nievera recalls.
“I knew then that I needed to innovate.”
After months of consultations and learning from competitors’ strategies, Ms. Nievera revamped Cabalen and transitioned into an eat all you can-eat all you want Filipino buffet dining venue. She also adjusted her pricing to attract a bigger market.
Cabalen claims to be the number one Filipino buffet and has since expanded to the provinces. The brand has over 50 branches — including joint ventures and franchises — nationwide and one international branch in San Francisco, California. These Cabalen-managed restaurants include Soi (Thai), Mangan (Kapampangan) and Cerveseria (Spanish).
Full article at http://bworldonline.com/bringing-hometown-table/