Ministop Philippines’ battle cry for 2020, “We don’t stop in Ministop,” has been tested and proven under the most difficult of circumstances. While most restaurants, malls, and other businesses have closed during the month-long lockdown, Ministop has remained open to serve thankful Filipino communities across Luzon and the Visayas Region.
During this trying period, Ministop has more than lived up to its billing as a 24/7 convenience store. Now that most people have been placed under a strict quarantine and are unable to leave their communities, venturing far to buy basic necessities has become a great hassle and highly impractical. Thankfully, with the 350-plus stores that have managed to stay open, Ministop has been able to conveniently provide many Filipinos with a host of essential goods and even delicious, freshly prepared meals such as the best-selling Uncle John’s Fried Chicken, Toppers, and Kariman.
Knowing how many Filipinos have come to depend on Ministop inspires members of the team to work doubly hard during the ECQ. “Kailangan naming magtrabaho para ma-process namin ang orders ng ating mga tindahan. Kailangan kumpleto ang stocks ng ating mga stores para sa mga customers na bumibili ng mga basic necessities nila,” says Jasmine Lavadia from the Ministop Distribution Center.
Now that public transportation is not available, employees started riding their bikes, carpooling, and in extreme cases, even walking for hours to get to their assigned Ministop stores or to the head office. Mechelle Cinco from Operations narrates her own experience: “Araw-araw since nag start ang lockdown, naglalakad lang ako papasok at pauwi ng higit sa isang oras. Isang crew na lang kasi ang nakakapasok sa Ministop Tabang store dahil sa hindi na makatawid ang ibang store personnel galing ibang bayan at kailangan kong magassist... Gusto ko na malaman ng mga store personnel at mga franchisee na rin, na karamay nila ang taga Head Office na pumapasok at lumalaban sa crisis na ito.”
The determination to earn a decent living is further reflected in the story of Hilda Bagalay, also from Operations. “Sa gitna ng Covid-19 outbreak na kinakaharap ng buong mundo, mas pinili ko pa rin ang pumasok kahit alam kong mahihirapan ako. Lahat kakayanin para po sa pamilya at para sa mga taong nangangailangan din ng service ko.”
Other franchisees, such as Lowell Reyes, have provided free board and lodging for their staff to minimize the impact of the ECQ. He says, “It’s so convenient for them and they have no worries continuing to operate, because they feel that the customers need them and that they can make a contribution in their own way."
It seems that everyone, from the store owners to the service crew, appreciate the roles they have to play in Ministop’s operations; it also extends to the people on the IT team who put systems in place to keep the various departments of Ministop on the same page. “The IT Team is maximizing Microsoft Teams to inform every member of the group on any concern that needs immediate attention. We also ensure that we fulfill our deliverables to the Distribution Center and Operations, and support our Work From Home users,” shared the IT Team’s Mia Juanico.
General Manager Bong dela Cruz proudly notes how inspired he was to see everyone— “the teams from the Head Office, the Distribution Center, Franchise partners and our frontliners”— all pulling together. “The sama-sama, tulong-tulong spirit was greatly manifested by the Ministop family as we continue to fulfill and serve the needs of the shoppers and the communities.”
Donna Leonicio, Assistant Vice President for Merchandising, narrates that the strong management support positively affects the staff. “Constant communication with everyone on the team–from the executives to the rank and file–gives an assurance to the employees that the organization continues to have their best interest in mind. This drives people to do their part even with limited means. This is the nature of the Filipino—a natural inclination and urge to help in any way they can. Employees started bringing snacks for the crew, lending extra pillows or linen for those that sleep in the store just so they can serve customers again the next day.”
For the franchise owners, they understand that their duty to the communities where their branches are located go beyond servicing the needs of the customers; the Ministop branches also provide gainful employment in their respective communities.
“More than the income, what keeps me going, what drives me to keep operating my stores is the thought that I am helping my team members earn a living for their families, you will appreciate their perseverance amidst the risk they face of being exposed to the COVID 19 virus. In our small way, we get to contribute to our community, able to provide their basic needs and food that is readily available which makes their lives more convenient,” says Ministop franchisee Alan Lee.
Another franchisee, Owen Santos, displayed the same great concern for his staff. “We remain open for the sake of our employees. They requested us to keep operating our stores so that they will have jobs to provide for their family. We owe it to them and so we remain operational.”
Aside from the health and safety advisories prepared by Ministop’s Head Office, many store owners went out of their way to ensure their employees were protected against the coronavirus. “Before it was declared as pandemic, I already talked to my staff preparing them. Sabi ko, they have to practice proper hygiene and practice social distancing,” recalls franchisee Mayette Valdez. Aside personally picking up and dropping off her staff who don’t have transportation (I am the gratis Grab driver, she jokes), Valdez says she “bought gallons of alcohol, hand sanitizers, and face masks. I kept orienting them on how the virus is transmitted. I advised them to set an alarm every 30 minutes to sanitize the counters. When the government included convenience stores on the list of establishments that are allowed to operate, I felt a sense of responsibility not only to my staff but to our customers in the area.”
These selfless acts from members of the Ministop community prove that small actions can make a big difference; their resiliency and working together when times are tough pave the way for providing quality service in a clean and safe environment.
“What touched me most was how quickly our frontliners adapted to the lockdown to ensure that more than 350 Ministop stores remain open and available to our customers in the communities. Many of them did so with significant personal sacrifices—like Dani who walked two hours from Cainta each way to get to work, or Zyll who slept amongst carton boxes before we could assemble the basic necessities needed,” said David Goh, the Managing Director of Ministop Philippines. Grateful customers everywhere are one with Goh’s tribute to his team: “We salute all our frontliners like you in making sure we don't stop at Ministop.”
Ministop is operated by Robinsons Convenience Stores, Inc., a joint venture between Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc. —the retail affiliate of JG Summit Holdings, Inc.— and Ministop Co. Ltd. of Japan.
For more information, visit ministop.com.ph