ELIZABETH PARDO-ORBETA: "Now we realize that we must adapt ourselves to the market even more"
When flagging sales threatened to pull her company down three years ago, Elizabeth Pardo-Orbeta, president of Wendy's Philippines Corp. (Wenphil), was hard-pressed for solutions to stem the tide. At a time when most fast-food chains were making a killing, her Wendy's chain of stores was going in the opposite direction, its slice of the market gradually being eroded by fiercely competitive industry stalwarts and trendy newcomers. She knew she had to act fast.
Today, Orbeta's two-pronged strategy to recover market share is well in place: tweaking Wendy's offerings to better suit the local palate, and giving a vibrant new look to eight of its stores. She says these moves are now slowly but surely improving the company's bottom line.
"Because some of our new offerings were not well received by the market, 2006 turned out to be a bad year for us," she says. "Now we realize that we must adapt ourselves to the market even more by introducing products that really cater to the customer's taste. I believe that the philosophy of eating healthier food is now taking hold in the market, so it's something that we plan to exploit to our advantage."
Part of Wenphil's ongoing marketing thrust is the introduction of rice meals, an initiative that was unheard of in other Wendy's outlets around the world. But Orbeta says it is a logical approach for her company, and she had worked hard to get the nod for it from her chain's parent company, the US-based Wendy's International.
"It was a hard-fought battle because Wendy's International wanted a uniform system for all their master franchisees worldwide," she explains. "They were therefore somewhat averse to change especially when it concerned the food we serve. Thankfully, though, they saw the wisdom of our proposal and agreed to let us include meals with rice in our menu."
Orbeta says that Wenphil continues to bring in new things to their restaurant chain, particularly new vegetarian offerings that are geared for an increasingly health-conscious market. A prime component of this marketing initiative is the company's drive to rid their food offerings of trans-fatty acids (TFA), one of the bugbears in today's health scene.
"We are proud to say that as of end-2007, our food offerings became completely TFA-free, which means that we now absolutely use only nonfat ingredients in our products, yet without affecting the taste of our food," she says.
Wendy's International has also seen the wisdom of creating a more modern and clean feel to their stores as a way of attracting a more diverse clientele, specifically from among the youth market. A study it conducted revealed that some people were turned off by the look of Wendy's stores, which were often perceived as drab and old-fashioned. The company thus did a facelift that centered around a choice between two lively color schemes.