From Kitchen Table to Corporate Boardroom

How Annie Guerrero Created Opportunity for Tourism Careers in the Philippines

Annie Guerrero loves cooking. She learned from the best—her mom. In the mid-1980s, Annie was a working mother taking care of a young daughter and teaching home economics courses to students at three universities in the Philippines. She supplemented her income by teaching cooking classes at home on weekends, and cooking for neighbors and friends who brought empty dishes for her to fill with her home-cooked recipes. Annie’s daughter, Badjie, was also an entrepreneur. She sold her own home-baked lemon squares at her high school until her school principal told her to stop competing with the school cafeteria.

Before the 1987 Philippine election, Annie and Badjie pulled off a successful delivery of 6,000 meals in four days, all prepared in their home kitchen. The duo decided they had the confidence to start their own business—a small bakery and food take-out counter called “Cravings.” With $14,000 of savings, they invested $12,000 into a commercial oven.


Organic growth with a dash of serendipity

The Cravings Group, a hospitality company in the Philippines, is the creation of an entrepreneurial mother and daughter duo: Susana “Annie” Guerrero and Marinela “Badjie” Trinidad.

For the next three decades, Annie and Badjie served their customers’ needs, growing their restaurant business and taking advantage of new opportunities in tourism and hospitality. Today, they own and operate The Cravings Group, a multimillion conglomerate with three interconnected business lines: restaurant and food service; hotels and event venues; and vocational education. This combination of industry and education has strengthened the individual business lines and enabled them to expand more rapidly.

For example, Annie and Badjie noticed that as Cravings grew into a chain of cafes, it was relatively easy to find qualified cooks, but very difficult to find managerial people who could lead the kitchen, even from a pool of graduates from top universities.

“New hires in management areas were really lacking in practical skills,” Badjie said. Many students lacked “soft” skills like communication and attitude.

A shortage of workers with the right skills is a common problem for businesses in the Philippines, a country where almost a quarter of the population lives in poverty and inequality is high.

A serendipitous meeting with a group of guests staying at their newly opened Orange Place Hotel led Annie and Badjie to develop their idea of opening a culinary school. The guests were faculty from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), and they invited them to visit their school in Canada. A partnership was formed, with NAIT helping The Cravings Group develop a practical curriculum centered around the requirements of the food service and hotel industries. They added areas like cost control, marketing, foreign languages, and social responsibility to meet the needs of their market.


High quality ingredients yield high quality graduates

Ninety-five percent of ASHA students find jobs within 60 days of completing their studies.

Established in 1996, the Center for Culinary Arts Manila grew rapidly with applicants far outnumbering available spots. Quality is high. It is one of only two schools outside the United States to be accredited by the American Culinary Federal Education Foundation, a comprehensive certification for chefs outside the U.S. In 2006, Cravings opened a second training institute, the Asian School for Hospitality Arts (ASHA), to meet demand for workers in the tourism industry.

By 2014, more than 4,000 students had graduated with a degree or diploma and more than 24,000 had participated in short courses. Ninety-five percent of these students found jobs within 60 days of completing their studies. These graduates are sought after by employers in part because courses incorporate extensive practical training, making them job-ready on the first day of employment. Paid practical training and work experience help students finance their studies.

If you don’t face a real customer who is paying for your product or service, you really don’t know what it’s like,” said Badjie.

IFC supported growth of The Cravings Group with a series of loans, guidance from IFC industry specialists, and eventually an equity stake in the company. Through IFC’s investment, several thousand students from underserved communities will gain access to a career in the high-growth tourism and hospitality industry and a pathway out of poverty.

Read more about the entrepreneurial mother and daughter duo and how they empower culinary and hospitality
leaders in the Philippines in IFC’s latest case study, Closing the Skills Gap for Global Tourism Jobs.

Published in March 2016