Inez Reyes : A Delicious Legacy

Feature in Starweek Magazine

MANILA, Philippines – Inez Reyes may be petite in stature, with an energetic and bubbly personality, but with more than 20 years of experience in the corporate world before becoming CEO of Reyes Barbecue, she is a formidable business woman and entrepreneur.

Reyes started as a market research analyst, and eventually went up the proverbial corporate ladder to hold senior marketing positions in food and beverage corporations including San Miguel, Ginebra, Coca-cola and eventually Jollibee.

“Among all the jobs in the corporate world, food is the hardest,” Reyes says. “Food is an everyday thing, therefore everyday you have to push. Especially with Jollibee whose market is young and old, rich and poor, you have to come up with campaigns targeting each of them.”

Reyes adds, “That experience gave me the skills and the right preparation for more pressure-filled jobs in owning your own business.”

Reyes decided to transition from her corporate job to joining the team of Reyes Barbecue when, four years after her husband Frank founded the restaurant, the couple realized that they could really grow the business.

Coming from a big corporation to a then little company, from focusing on one thing to doing everything, was a challenge for Reyes, but she saw the potential of Reyes Barbecue.

As joint CEOs of Reyes Barbecue, Inez and Frank divide their responsibilities according to each one’s strengths. “Thankfully, my husband and I like different things,” she says.

“We have an agreement that I will defer to him completely on any decision that has to do with food, especially the taste, the portion and the pricing. He has the better instincts when it comes to that,” she says. “While he will defer to me completely on everything else that I am in charge of – marketing, HR policies, how to manage people.”

“Ever since I joined, we’ve been trying to level up our organization so we can have longevity,” says Reyes.

To ensure longevity, Reyes sees the importance of training their next generation management.

Since Frank comes from the family that started the iconic Aristocrat restaurant, the Reyes couple is keen on passing on the leadership of their own family business to their children.

Whenever they travel, they take cooking lessons as a family, Reyes shares. Their eldest son Patrick already shows talent in cooking. Reyes stresses, however, “they have to learn to be employees. To be a good boss, you have to learn to be a follower first.”

Reyes shares, “As a brand, you have to stand for something. We would like to be known as the barbecue brand with a heritage. We have more than a 100-year heritage, coming from Frank’s great grandmother to him, and hopefully our son.”

As a business leader, Reyes was a guest speaker and mentor at the recent Women’s Business Summit organized by the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines.

She highlights the fact that the Philippines is among the top five in the world in terms of percentage of women executives. “The women are quite popular, actually. We work harder,” she says.

“The main challenge of being a female in the corporate world is not the work, but achieving work-life balance,” she says on having to juggle the demands of being an effective executive and spending time with her family and on her own hobbies.

“I would bring my children to my midnight final checking of advertisements that would air the next day,” she says on how she managed when she was in the corporate arena.

When she does have time, Reyes loves to read and write. In fact, she has been published in The Philippine STAR for writing about her favorite books, and won the grand prize in the 2012 My Favorite Book Awards.

When asked for advice for those wanting to start a successful business, Reyes says, “Go for your dream. Like Frank, he really just went for it. So if you have something in your gut, you must always try it out… You can only be successful in business if you yourself like the product you are selling.”

She adds, “At a certain point, like what happened to us, you really have to professionalize, if you want to grow.”

On her hopes for the future of the company, she says, “Ultimately, our goal for Reyes Barbecue is to achieve longevity. We would consider ourselves really successful if we achieve longevity, 20 to 40 years in the business. We are not about size, but quality. We aim for an ASEAN store, maybe in the next three to five years.”

She adds that this can be achieved by continuing to develop the organization.

I like food and I like working with people. I enjoy analyzing numbers and planning things, so I guess I have it in my character to enjoy this kind of a role,” Reyes muses on what motivates her.

“But maybe deep down, what really motivates Frank and me is leaving a legacy for our kids… Something that is good, respectable; something that people enjoy. To achieve that kind of legacy, you have to be the best at what you do, so we really aim to be the best in barbecue.”

Reyes reiterates, “Our brand has more than a hundred years’ legacy. As parents, we would really like to instill in our children valuing this legacy and sustaining and building it in their own way. To everybody with a family legacy and heritage, build on it.”