Features

Your customers are your best marketing team, says Bar Pintxos’ Tinchu Gonzalez

An inexperienced restaurateur highlights the importance of customer-focused marketing

Photos by JP Talapian

Martin “Tinchu” Gonzalez is quick to admit that he and his business partner Miguel Vecin built Bar Pintxos on a whim. “We were just trying to cater to the Alabang market since we’ were both from there.”

Coming in from work, braving the traffic, and not having a place to hang out prompted the Spanish food importers to set up shop and offer comfort food and a selection of wines to their neighborhood—and they did this without any prior restaurant experience. It could have easily been a recipe for disaster, but the residents in the south came in droves, regardless of their shortcomings.

Bar Pintxos in Alabang only had 10 items on the menu: four tapas and six pintxos. And not even a marketing budget to promote the brand. Fortunately, they had friends, family, and impressed customers who were willing to promote the shop for them.

“It was risky because during that time, Miguel just resigned from corporate work and we wanted to increase our sales by expanding Tierra into something bigger,” says Gonzalez. “I was the waiter, the cashier, the dishwasher. And Miguel would do the groceries and be so busy in the kitchen. We only had secondhand burners and deep fryers. No POS. We were working 15 hours a day. None of us were restaurateurs. We were just two fat Spanish guys who love to eat. It was crazy.”

Bar Pintxos in Alabang only had 10 items on the menu: four tapas and six pintxos. And not even a marketing budget to promote the brand. Fortunately, they had friends, family, and impressed customers who were willing to promote the shop for them. “The customers were just so appreciative of what we were serving them. They took photos, posted them in their social media accounts, and all these were personal.”

Berenjenas fritas (fried eggplant, espelette, honey)
Huevos y foie
Sangria

Not long after, their customer base grew. Even people from Makati, Quezon City, and Pasig drove all the way to Alabang. There was even a group that came from Baguio to visit and enjoy what they had to offer. This made Gonzalez and Vecin realize that they had something special in their hands.

To date, Bar Pintxos has expanded to three branches, with BGC and Salcedo as their most recent openings. And though their food is sinfully savory and well-executed, they relegate their success to their customers who have remained loyal. “We had no marketing [strategy]. It was just kind blessings from people who felt that we deserved this chance. They believed in us.” Giving credit where it’s due, guests only did so because Bar Pintxos became some sort of a second home.

Gonzalez calls himself a glorified GRO, especially since he likes to talk to people and interact. And that has worked to his advantage as his personal attention lends to providing an environment that’s more welcoming. “It’s good that they see you’re there and that you can talk to them about your dishes. We try to give a certain homey vibe and feel. I make sure I spend time with the customers. We’re not trying to be pretentious or build a too upscale identity. I don’t want them to be intimidated. We extend ourselves to them. Sometimes, I even come up to bother them.”

“It’s good that they see you’re there and that you can talk to them about your dishes. We try to give a certain homey vibe and feel. I make sure I spend time with the customers. We’re not trying to be pretentious or build a too upscale identity. I don’t want them to be intimidated. We extend ourselves to them. Sometimes, I even come up to bother them,” says Tinchu Gonzalez.

Food writer Jaclyn Clemente-Koppe, who has sworn by Bar Pintxos since day one, says, “An authentic pintxos bar is not just about food. That cozy, neighborhood vibe is what truly sells the place and sets it apart from the Spanish restaurants we’re used to.”

Gonzalez’ role when they opened the Alabang branch was highly instrumental in making the restaurant the resounding success it is today. Koppe adds, “Not only did he make it a warm and inviting space for the customers, but he made it a point to educate those who might not fully understand what they’re doing and how truly special it is. While Miguel’s food speaks for itself, Tinchu makes sure that guests leave appreciating what they do and feeling like they’re part of it.”

Satisfied customers do make for the best restaurant promoters. Their affirmation don’t stem from likable food photos or promotional gimmicks but from reliable experience, which, to be honest, leaves a lasting impression.

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