How long have you been together? We ask lovebirds Iza Calzado and Ben Wintle.
“Too long,” the actress says in jest, as she goes to look blissfully at his businessman beau. Both their eyes twinkle, it’s almost cinematic.
As for us—the singles of the world sitting through reality, this is the part where we give in to self-loathing, little by little becoming real-life memes, a la James Van Der Beek caught midway through a really ugly-cry, with “Walang forever!” plastered amateurishly above our heads. But we learn to professionally contain ourselves, as we find us joining Iza and Ben at this foodie challenge for online influencers. Ben’s booking app Booky Manila is sponsoring the gimmick.
[related: Cheat Sheet: What We Can Learn From This Former No-Namer But Now Well-Loved Startup Food App]
Like how couples’ mutual gastronomic interests bind them, Iza and Ben’s love of food has played a good part in their relationship. Not just in establishing it, but also in maintaining it.
“We go out three to four times a week—we usually go back to the same ones,” Iza opens up. “Our top three choices are Wholesome Table, Green Pastures, and Wildflour.”
We all know how the couple’s preference for dining out has paved the way for Booky’s growth through the few years that were. Iza and Ben used to frequent restaurants only to waste time waiting in line. In 2014, Ben—who's hailed from startup-focused Hong Kong—finally breathed life to an app where users can literally book without going online. The same app also provides users promos and discounts as perks of a download.
Within three years, Booky has now grown to around 30 members. Ben as the ever-unassuming CEO now handles almost an entire team of millennials. Its direction is backed heavily with research and analytics, including search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and remarketing. It has collaborated with global brands Lazada, Foodpanda, Grab, and even us at ABS-CBN Lifestyle. Iza, for her part, becomes the app’s de facto mascot. It’s a pretty harmonious partnership.
[related: Conversations: Ben Wintle on Life in Manila and Elevating Every Filipino Foodie's Experience]
Ben points out a business secret, “I guess our strength is that we’ve always been adapting to what the local demands are. It’s a Filipino app made for Filipinos. That’s our strength but in terms our vision for Booky, it’s for it to be a household name for anybody who goes out and eats. Everybody wants help with figuring out where to go and saving a bit of money, so that’s our proposition.”
The couple likes to push #PinoyPride further with Booky. “Not many local apps have had much success here. Everybody uses Grab, and Uber everyday but those are not locally made. Everyone at Booky is really proud of (our roots),” Ben says. “My vision for Bookie is to take it outside the Philippines,” Iza seconds.
[related: In Focus: How Love Played a Major Role in the Birth of Hot Food App Booky Manila]
Booky has recently released a new, self-explanatory promo called Buy 1, Get 1—as part, of course, of the app’s innovations.
“A member could basically redeem all the coupons in the app every month. If someone were to redeem all the coupons in the app in a month, they would be saving at least 10,000 pesos,” shares Ben.
“It’s very on-the-go, very sporadic. You walk into a mall, remember to claim your Buy 1 Get 1. And Filipinos really love free stuff. I mean everybody loves free stuff but especially Filipinos. We have a lot of dessert Buy 1 Get 1’s, we have a lot of drink and cinema ones. The most popular drinks coupons are Happy Lemon, Auntie Anne’s, Seattle’s Best. Our most popular desserts are the churros from La Lola. It’s either super salty, fried or like super sugary and fried, too. Sinful!”
We had to ask: Being the minds behind Booky, how in the world do you ever maintain your fit bods?
“Both career and health are our top priority,” declares Iza. “Ben obviously has a nicer body. He’s athletic so he’s been active all his life! And genetically as well—his parents are as fit!” She laughs before continuing, “But health is a big factor as to why I myself do low-carb diets. When I am strict, I’m really strict, but I also know when to have fun. I’ll bend some rules here and there if I need to.”
Iza’s tip for food-loving couples dreading the pounds they’d get from dining out? “Cook! Or, try to order the less carb-heavy dishes. We like Perry’s. We love People’s Palace. All those restaurants, you can book a table through Booky and get a reservation!”
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