In the 1980s, when the lechon manok fad took hold of the Philippines, it was just impossible for any Pinoy to leave his home and arrive at his destination without seeing at least two competing lechon manok kiosks.
It was during this time that Dolores and Dwight Salcedo were busy experimenting and trying out small business ventures, something to lean on to and help them earn a little bit more income to make ends meet. Aside from the regular day jobs that kept them busy, the couple also tried their luck in the Betamax tape rental business and bus transportation business. However, because of the political and economic crisis in the Philippines at the time, just making both ends meet proved to be a challenge for Dolores and Dwight.
In November 1985, with two babies just born to the Salcedo family, the couple were ready and willing to try any new business idea. So the couple decided to withdraw P5,000 from their savings and borrow an additional P5,000 from their parents and put up their very own lechon manok kiosk at Project 8, Quezon City. Without any MBAs or prior experience in the food business, which is common among the entrepreneurs of today, the Salcedos went about taking care of their lechon manok business in their own unique way.
Why did the couple choose Baliwag as the name of their lechon manok business? Dolores was born and raised in Baliwag, Bulacan. She said that just hearing the name of her province brought back fond memories of authentic Filipino food and hospitality. She stressed that if the name Baliwag can have that same effect on the ordinary Filipino, their lechon manok business just might have a good chance of succeeding.
How did the now popular recipes of Baliwag Lechon Manok come about? With no extra funds to hire chefs or expert cooks, Dolores asked for the help of her cousin, Boy, who had a knack for cooking Filipino meals. He then came up with the first-ever recipes for the Baliwag lechon manok, liempo and sauce. The original recipes then went through a screening process—the highly demanding palates of the fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, cousins, former schoolmates and officemates of Dwight and Dolores. The recipes were then slightly adjusted for every valid comment and criticism from the screening committee.
More than three decades later, their daughter Sarabeth Salcedo-Soriano, Managing Director of Baliwag Lechon Manok, Inc., continues to keep their signature lechon manok at the center of family reunions, birthdays and many other celebrations nationwide. From humble beginnings Baliwag Lechon Manok has grown from one kiosk to over 300 outlets across the Philippines with additional brands like Little Manila and Steak Station which serve a wide selection of Pinoy favorites that continue to satisfy the Filipino palate.
What is the difference of Baliwag Lechon Manok compared with the other lechon manok offered by their competitors? “Siyempre it is the taste and the quality of our lechon manok. You cannot go around that. That is just it, the taste and the quality which we always strive to maintain. There is also the special gravy of Baliwag Lechon Manok that my Mom and Uncle Boy came upon on their own which has no preservatives and we still use today,” said Sarabeth.
With a first investment of P10,000 when they started their lechon manok business, was there an intention to grow into the more than 300 store lechon manok business today? “Honestly no and we had no plans at first to have 300 stores or kiosks. It was just one stall located on a certain street in Quezon City when we started and it was a fad business at that time. My parents just wanted to try it out and luckily for us the market response was good and here we are,” explained Sarabeth.
Aside from the Baliwag Lechon Manok kiosks there are the Baliwag Grill and Restaurant, the dine-in restaurants at the malls and food court kiosks in the malls. “Thankfully everybody supported the products of Baliwag Lechon Manok and we are still going on strong three decades after we started this lechon manok business. There is a lot of competition sprouting up here and there but we feel humbled and lucky that we are still here and the Filipino people love lechon manok,” said Sarabeth.
Why do people always continue to come back to Baliwag Lechon Manok kiosks and Baliwag Grill and Restaurants? “There is really no going around it. It’s just the taste and the quality of our product. We use the latest in technology to give the freshest ingredients and to make the quality more consistent. We also make use of the latest production techniques so that the taste of our products would be more consistent and the quality would be more consistent too,” Sarabeth explained.
What about the competition in the lechon manok business with other lechon manok businesses like Andok’s, Chooks To Go and Senior Pedro having sprouted through the years? “Contrary to popular belief we accept and accommodate competition. I think it is a very good indicator that there is a market na gusto ng tao yung produkto namin. After 33 years there is still competition sprouting up here and there. So I think we have achieved that goal 33 years ago na Baliwag Lechon Manok is not just a fad business,” Sarabeth said.
Humility and hard work have proven to be core values of the Salcedo family and the Baliwag Lechon Manok, Inc. through the years leading to its amazing growth. After all, values drive decisions that drive behavior that in the end drive results. How about growth prospects of the Salcedo family and the Baliwag Lechon Manok, Inc.? What do the people who have worked with the Salcedo’s through the years have to say about the family?
According to Anicia Domingo, the General Manager of Baliwag Lechon Manok, Inc. for the past 33 years, the traits that are most needed for an employee to stay for three decades or more is dedication and the willingness to learn.
“In the three decades that I have been in the company, the Salcedo family is the most generous individuals that I have met. Whenever we need something they are just whispers away. They always listen to us,” said Domingo.
Is there anything else that Domingo would share about Baliwag Lechon manok, Inc. that will make Pinoys understand why it is where it is today? “Baliwag Lechon Manok is number one today because of three reasons. Number one and two are because of the taste and the aroma of our lechon manok. When you smell it you will crave for more. Specially our liempo which is not only juicy and tender but also crispy. It is very yummy. Number three is the price. For only P265 for lechon manok and P199 for liempo you will get a heavenly filling while eating,” said Domingo.
What is Sarabeth’s suggestion to companies who are just starting up in the lechon manok business? “It is really what my parents have told me all the time, it is dedication to the business. Also yung malasakit, the malasakit sa mga katrabaho mo, to the people you work with and the malasakit to the consumers. You should listen to the consumers with what they want and you care about them. You should care about the people you work with,” said Sarabeth.
What has been the most rewarding thing for the Salcedo family having established Baliwag Lechon Manok? “Baliwag Lechon Manok as a house hold name. It is very rewarding that people know Baliwag Lechon Manok and it is at the top of the list when you think of lechon manok. We are very grateful that the people acknowledge all the efforts and accept the product that we offer and continue to offer. We also have new products that we try to come up with. I would also like to focus more on the younger generation and I am happy that even those who weren’t there in the beginning, in the 1980s, are aware of what Baliwag Lechon Manok is now,” said Sarabeth.
By Jose K. Lirios