GAME CHANGER: From bar waiter to restaurateur

Poverty is no hindrance to success — especially if you have the motivation to get out of it. With sheer determination, hard work and support from loved ones, you cannot fail.

Everyone has to start from scratch.

For Rogelio Canales, more popularly known as Budoy, being a waiter was just the start. He didn;t stop there. In no time, he learned about bartending. And it took him only five years to become his own boss – as chief executive officer of Mixed Temptations Mobile Bar Davao. But when the pandemic hit the country in 2020, he transformed it into a restaurant.

“It was a dream come true,” says Canales, who graduated with two-year-course on Hotel and Restaurant Management at Alemarz School of Science and Technology as a scholar of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Now, he has three successful restaurants under his name. With the COVID virus receding, the mobile bar is again open to the public. The first restaurant is located at Ponciano Reyes Street while the second one is in Lanang; the third is just adjacent to the second restaurant. “I believe if you follow your passion and dream, everything will happen in the right time,” he points out.

Almarie “Al” Ajero, the loving wife who’s from Kidapawan City, is very supportive of what her husband is doing for the family. The couple has two sons. “I totally support him all the way,” she says.

Canales has gone a long way indeed. Back then, while still in college, he never knew what would happen to him. He underwent his on-the-job training at the Marco Polo Hotel in 2006. After graduation, he was absorbed by the Banquet Bar as an on call waiter.

From being a waiter, he was promoted to be a bartender in Lotus Court Chinese Restaurant (2008-2011) and then at the Pool Bar (2013-2014). For a year, he was in-charge at the Banquet Bar as bar captain. He was transferred the following year to the Eagles Bar, where he was in-charge of all bar outlets.

From 2016 to 2018, Canales became the officer-in-charge of the Lotus Court and also served as department trainer for service and beverage skills. In February 2019, he decided to resign from his job to pursue what he had been dreaming: a business of his own.

After all, he is the president of the Davao chapter of Bartenders Brotherhood Association of the Philippines. It was sort of a record as he never knew about bartending.

“I really have no idea about bartending; what I know is only about waitering. When I was transferred to Lotus Court, it was there that I learned how to brew tea, coffee and fruit juices. If our guests ordered cocktails, we went to the lobby lounge or Eagles Bar.

“The reason was that we were not allowed to mix cocktails. Aside from that, we didn’t know how and we didn’t have the ingredients,” he recalled. “When the Lotus Court was renovated, the staff were distributed to other outlets and I was assigned to the Pool Bar.”

Canales was scared with the new development. “I was afraid because I don’t have any knowledge about cocktails, mocktails, spirits and wine,” he admitted.

But what really frightened him the most was having conversation with the guests and visitors. “The Pool Bar is the hangout place for most foreign guests,” he said. “At that time, all I knew was to answer yes or no.”

Instead of being terrified, he decided to learn the basics of bartending. “I forced myself to study, research and attend seminars. I also asked for some techniques in the preparation of basic mixed drinks, spirits and wine from the legends and masters in the bartending industry,” he said.

As he learned more about bartending, Canales also gained some confidence in talking with the guests. Later on, “I fell in love with what I was doing. In fact, I enjoy doing it.”

Looking back, he admitted: “Along the way, I learned the ways and means of the bartending industry. But most importantly, I developed my self-esteem and confidence. If in the past I had only two English words, I am now able to converse with foreigners although not really fluently but enough to talk with them and understand what they are telling me.”

His mobile bar was doing well when the pandemic happened. The idea of moving from serving drinks to offering foods came into fruition. “I shifted to a restaurant because of the pandemic and the government banned alcoholic beverages.”

In addition, he didn’t want his people to lose their jobs. So, he contacted a chef who could help him realize his idea.

On why he focused on Chinese foods, he replied, “Chinese foods are my personal favorite and as a former Supervisor of Lotus Court.”

Mixed Temptation Chinese Restaurant offers a lot of Chinese food on its menu. Among the top five best-selling Chinese foods during the time of pandemic were: Peking duck, patatim, Hainanese chicken, dimsum and homemade tofu.

As more people ordered from his Chinese restaurant, he decided to open a new one in Lanang, which would be accessible to his customers living in the northern part of the city. “Most of our customers are from the north,” he said.

According to Canales, the main branch’s strength is its “take-out” orders as 80% of the sales comes from it. For those who want to dine in, the Lanang branches are the best places to be.

Looking back, he said: “My mobile bar and bar business was closed temporarily by the pandemic, but we also discovered Chinese food through the pandemic.”

Now that drinking is again allowed, he is again serving drinks through his mobile bar. “Right now, we are offering a mobile bar that comes with food. Our new tagline is: ‘Tell me where the party is, and we’ll bring the bar and the Chinese food.”

You can never put Rogelio Canales down. He is a man with sheer determination and is full of ideas. He is a perseverance incarnate.

“Don’t lose hope,” he said. “Never quit; choose a business that you love the most.”

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