Fast food has become so common place that we see one popping up on almost every corner. But as soon as some of them open, they close just as fast. But being 32 years in the business, the queen of Goto King has something to advise to individuals interested in going into food business.

“We’re committed to quality and nowadays quality means controlling your cost. Kasi pag ‘di mona-control ang cost mo, mahirap kang magbenta ng produktomo at a right price. When I say right price, the customer gets what he pays for. Kasi pag paiba-iba yun, mawawala ang customer mo,” says Teresa Dula-Laurel, founder and chief operating officer of Goto King’s Caterking Food Corporation.

It all began in a friend’s wedding

Laurel’s idea for a fastfood latched on when packed meals became in demand that Laurel and her husband thought of getting into the same business in 1977. But halfway into the couple’s feasibility study, they realized that such business will entail a huge capital, such as cost of transportation and central kitchen for food preparation. So the plan fizzled out, until a friend urged her to cater on her wedding day. Laurel, not one to balk at an offer, took on the challenge and borrowed P2,500 from her brother-in-law. It was a rather large amount at the time.

“I had to buy ceramic plates for 300 guests at the wedding,” she fondly recalls.

She borrowed huge cookwaresand other kitchen utensils from her friends and relatives since she was not yet sure of her foray into the catering business.After three caterings, she was able to recover and pay up her P2,500 loan.

Laurel’s interest in cooking was spawned by her mom who was a good cook. Her early experience in the kitchen, nurtured by her mother, developed her passion and skills in cooking.

“My mom was into Spanish cooking. I had to be in the kitchen whenever  my mom’s there, to help out, chopping garlic and cutting onions. I wasn’t even 10 years old, then,” Laurel fondly recalls.

From catering to canteen, then to Goto King

From catering, the Laurels ventured into canteen concessions. However, profit was quite limited in this business becauseof left over ingredientsthat got spoiled before the next catering schedule came along. The profit went with what was left over.

Because of such difficulty, Laurel thought of a canteen. The excess in ingredients can be used n the canteen, she thought. The first venture was a barbeque restaurant along the University Belt area. But before long, Laurel found herself competing with those living nearby.

“If I sold my budget meal for P3.50, they will sell theirs at P1.50,” says Laurel.

”Ang konsepto nilang negosyo ay yung maisampa lang nila konsumo nila sa araw-araw, mapaaral mga anak. Wala silang binabayarang magluluto. Yung apartment nila, yun narin ang canteen nila (Their business concept is to just earn for daily consumption, send their kids to school. They don’t have to pay for cooks. Their apartment serves as their canteen),” Laurel explains.

Given the costs of keeping a canteen, Laurel put up another food business. She wanted something Pinoy serving authenticFilipino food. She wanted to be the best in her trade, so she named it Goto King. Her first store was in Shoe Mart Cubao in 1984.Her capital was P50,000 pesos for the cart, deposit, and equipment. It took only about two years to recover her capital. The cart and stores were all company-owned until Goto King started to franchise in 1994.

In the past, they had to deliver their goto (congee with meat) to every stall. Then they offered goto on the van and on the street. When SM saw that Goto King was getting successful, SM offered the company a stall in the food court, so Goto King graduated from cart to stall.

Laurel realized that as the business needs technology as it grows. They had to do development of their own soup-base and had to retain the same cut size of ingredients. They also have to expand their product line because people might get tired of eating just goto all the time. Their operations improved with DOST’s assistance.

DOST’s role in cost control

“Ang philosophy kosanegosyo  is you have to go out. You have to benchmark, so you can compare your practice with other companies’ practices,” Laurel pointed out.

She thinks that being exposed to other companies motivates employees on how to do better in the business. Laurel herself is very active in the Development Academy of the Philippines and Asia Productivity Association. She also encourages her staff to attend various training.

Sometime in 2010, Laurel received an invitation to a seminar  through email, so she sent her staff to attend a training and it was there that they learned of the program of the Department of Science and Technology’sSmall Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (DOST-SETUP), which gives assistance to small businesses through the DOST’s National Capital Region office.

The company first availed of the P1 million technology assistance from the DOST-SETUP in 2011 which was used to maintain the mini processing plant for tapa (dried meat), tocino (cured meat), inasal (grilled chicken), and longganisa (local Filipino sausage). Goto King manufactures its own meat products.

This year, her company Caterking availed of another assistance to boost its bottled product line such as bagoong (fermented fish), bottled sauces, and gourmet tuyo (dried fish).

Before the DOST technology assistance, the company’s product costs varied because of difficulties in keeping track of the inventoryusing the same facility for Goto King and for other product lines. But the equipment provided through DOST’s SETUP enabled the company to standardize ingredients and overall output. The company was also able to monitor the inventory and document almost all operation procedures.

When Laurel started the business, the company had about five employees, Today,Caterking employs almost 400 warm bodies.

The future of Filipino food

Caterking Food Corporation believes that with all the Filipinos worldwidethere is a potential market for Filipino ingredients.

“There will come a time when people will just want to buy food, so nakikitakoyung market for the region ng Filipino delicacies. We have to develop and make excellent products. We cannot promote our cuisine if our ingredients are not readily available,” Laurel says.

For this reason, the company, with the help of DOST, is working on improving the manufacture of their bottled products. With all these accomplishments, Laurel can easily rest on her laurels. But no, she continues to learn and share her know-how to other food businesses. Her company assists other companies in product development, such as product bottling or making chicharon out of mushrooms. Laurel wants her food technologists and cooks to maintain interest in the work they do.

“I just want to maintain the interest of my R&D staff sakanilang work. Kasi ‘di pwedeng puro goto ng goto ang gagawin. So,pag may catering, dinadalako yung ibang cooks,” she says.
Caterking placed second runner-up in innovation for the SME Excellence Award at the ASEAN Business Awards for 2016 held  in Laos last September.

For other information on technology products and services at the National Capital Region, visit (By Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin, S&T Media Service)

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Teresa Dula-Laurel, founder and chief operating officer of Goto King’s Caterking Food Corporation emphasized the importance of having the right price for your product. “When I say right price, the customer gets what he pays for. Kasi pag paiba-iba yun, mawawala ang customer mo.”

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The equipment provided by the DOST-SETUP enabled Goto King to standardize their ingredients and overall output.

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