The year was 2007, when shawarma was barely known by food-loving Pinoys. With nothing but nursing degrees and 300-something thousand pesos to back them up, Gem Zenarosa and his wife Angel used all of their money to start a food business with doner (shawarma), kebab, and steak as the main menu. For the couple, it was the start of an adventure that catapulted them into one of the country’s fastest growing food business today.
Gem wasn’t actually sure that shawarma would be such an instant hit among Pinoys, but it did in a matter of weeks. Thanks to his gut instinct to be where diners frequently go to dine with friends and family – SM malls.
The move is so unlike most upstarts who would try to sell online first before trying physical stores. The Zenarosas applied their concept for a food cart to as many SM malls as they possibly can, until SM Sta. Mesa gave the first nod. According to Gem, it was an easy decision since SM already has foot traffic that even a small business can take advantage of.
As it turned out, his decision to invest inside a mall right away proved to be the best for Turks. “We had a huge help from SM in terms of marketing our brand. In fact, they still consistently help us today – 10 years into being a tenant in their malls nationwide,” said Gem.
From a team of seven employees, Turks now employs at least 300 people in company-owned branches alone. The company gets its inspiration to stay as “the people’s favorite doner and kebab” from this present crop of hardworking employees.
“People who work for him motivates him, knowing we depend on him for our livelihood. We are treated like family, which resonates on our products and service. The business concept is like feeding your own family, that’s why we always strive to go all out for our customers,” affirmed Jhoanna Borricano, operations head of Turks.
The adventure continues for Turks. There are bigger plans to reach out to more food-loving Filipinos in the provinces, and to conquer the global food scene with its distinct Filipino take on this Mediterranean flavor. And so the journey continues for Turks, with sheer determination and confidence that the business concept will keep growing.
Turks branches are located in 47 SM malls nationwide, and is one of over 5,000 partners of SM Supermalls who offer family fun and extraordinary mall-going experiences for all.