The founders of Adobo Experience immigrated to Canada to work as “kitchen helpers.” After a few short years, they took a gamble in the restaurant industry and started their own restaurant business in 2015.
With very little capital – some borrowed from their credit cards – they opened a small restaurant in 17th Avenue SE Calgary. They worked hard, working full-time jobs, raising their families, and taking turns to “grow” their business.
Today, Adobo Experience has six restaurants – five in Alberta, and one in British Columbia. They are one of the fastest growing Filipino owned chains in Canada. It is an amazing feat for these four individuals who were OFW’s – Overseas Foreign Workers.
“I came June 1, 2010, with an open work permit,” says George. “My wife came first then I followed her. I worked at the same restaurant as Jeff. That’s where we met. For three years I worked two jobs. During those times I only slept for 4 hours a day.”
“I arrived April 2011 as a contract worker,” says Jeffrey Angeles. “I was a cook at a restaurant. I worked there for one year. Then after I finished my contract, I worked for a pizza place. I worked there for three years. That’s where I learned management skills.”
Jeffrey connected with three of his friends and former coworkers – Ronaldo, George, and Don – to start their first restaurant at 17th Avenue northeast of Calgary, Alberta.
“I saw the potential to start a business,” said Jeffrey. “I worked with an East Indian manager. If they can do it, I know we can do it. George and I met in our spare time, and said why don’t we start a business? We’re both hard-working, and we’ve worked in the restaurant. He said yes, let’s do it. So we started to look for a place.”
Starting their restaurant wasn’t easy. Funding was a problem. The founders had to pull together their own funds to get started. In May 2015, they opened their doors to the public.
“It was tough,” says Jeffrey. “We were at the planting stage. There was a lot of work and many sleepless nights. Many times, we didn’t know if we can continue. But we persevered.”
Their perseverance paid off. Word spread quickly in Calgary of the new restaurant, drawing in Filipinos and Canadians customers. Their first restaurant was a big success.
But the founders did not stop there. They wanted to grow and expand. After a few months, they opened a second restaurant in Calgary, drawing in partners to help fund and run the new chain. A few months after that, they opened two more in Calgary, and then in Edmonton. They now have a restaurant in Fort St. John, British Columbia, and recently opened another chain in Red Deer, Alberta.
“We Filipinos have a worker mentality,” says Jeffrey. “But we have tools and experience to be business owners. We just have to do it.”
The founders of Adobo Experience are determined to continue growing their restaurant business. Adobo Experience is quickly becoming an established brand in Alberta’s Filipino community, and soon in Western Canada and beyond.
“Within five years, we want to be international,” says Jeffrey. “We want to showcase the authentic Filipino cuisine… If we managed to open four locations in one year, imagine what we could accomplish in five years if we have the right people.”
For aspiring entrepreneurs, here’s what George has to say: “Have patience, work hard, and get started. If you want to get into a business, do it. Or you’ll be working forever. If you want to start, then start.”