We, Filipinos, love to eat! I love to eat and I look forward to going home every weekend to my hometown, Naga City, to be with family and friends, to bond over food, and to choose which particular restaurant we would binge on.
Naga City is known for the Peñafrancia Fiesta, its signature hot and spicy food, and the bustling nightlife along the trendy and cosmopolitan Magsaysay Avenue. Here, the array of food choices beckons. One can find Filipino, Western, Spanish, Japanese, Mexican and Chinese inspired-restaurants catering to all types of foodies.
Every so often, a certain food establishment folds up but soon after a new one opens. To survive in this food jungle, one needs strong management acumen coupled with a keen understanding of what the market wants. This reminds me of the business practices of Cristy’s Kamayan, now renamed Bob Marlin, one of the pioneer restaurants along Magsaysay Avenue. Cristy’sKamayan opened in the 1990’s, at a time when most businesses were located in the city proper or “centro.” I could only surmise how difficult it had been to make people travel to Magsaysay. It must have something to offer worth the tricycle fare from the centro. Cristy’s was the first to offer a kamayan-inspired restaurant serving native home-cooked foods. But that alone would not have sustained the business.
In a chat with Bob Marlin’s owner Cristy Palma one lazy afternoon, I realized how passionate, dedicated and hardworking she is. She also showed traits that could explain her business success.
First, it is evident that she cares for her employees and treats them like family. This is consistent with what F. LandaJocano described as a characteristic of Filipino leadership style—compassionate leadership that encourages a sense of belonging towards the organization. Treating employees as family is thought to be the typical woman-leader’s style, which instills what acclaimed author Sally Helgesen calls a “web of inclusion” or a structure that is not hierarchical, seeks to transform, and uses interpersonal skills to motivate employees. I observed that Cristy has always displayed her feminine side in running her business: she empathizes and understands the needs of her employees and this is how she maintains their loyalty.
Second, she encourages long-term commitment not only to product quality but also to innovation. This means constantly updating her menu to cater to the restaurant’s different markets. A strong signal of this commitment is the transformation from the traditional kamayan to a fresher and more upbeat restaurant-concept that caters to a younger set looking for fun and not just food.
In hindsight, it would appear that her approach to running the business is no different from other family-owned businesses; but being in business for more than two decades could only mean she is doing something good and right. In this case, she is able to sustain the business by being one with her workers, armed with her own brand of feminine leadership, by providing for the needs of her customers, and by being an instrument for the public good and not just for personal gain.
Ms. Caning is a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) student at the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. She welcomes comments at email@example.com. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.