Tropical Hut's Viral Fame Gives Retired Manager the Happiest Father's Day

He dined on fried chicken and dinuguan with his daughter.
Tony Boneo visited the Tropical Hut branch in Shaw Boulevard on Father's Day, June 19, 2022.
Photo/s: Composite photos courtesy of Marian Boneo

Retired Tropical Hut Hamburger manager Antonio Boneo took his family on a Father's Day date to his old branch that is now teeming with customers, thanks to a viral Twitter post that led a young generation to discover good food that predated the Instagram flat lay.

"Sir Tony" worked for 42 years at Tropical Hut, rising from the ranks as a janitor when he first got hired. His daughter Marian's post about their Sunday chicken and dinuguan date also went viral, providing a human face to the fight of nostalgia brands to win new customers.

"Balita niya nga 'yung dating sales nila for 3 days, na-reach nung store within a day. Never daw nilang na-achieve 'yun kahit holiday/during weekends. Ngayon lang," Marian tweeted.

"Buong buhay niya sa THH (Tropical Hut Hamburger) niya nilaan ang kanyang oras at masasabi kong nobody cared for Tropical as much as he did," she said.

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Marian said her mother asked her to tweet about her father after Tropical Hut became a trending topic for days. Her posts have gained more than 53,000 heart reactions.

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"Natuwa naman siya na maraming tao," she told reportr of her father's reaction. "May mga nakasalamuha siya before na nag-message sa akin, 'kilala ko dad mo, mabait siya.' Sinabi ko sa kanya, medyo teary-eyed siya."

From janitor to manager

Tropical Hut was her father's only employer, Marian said. Since May 1978, he worked at more than 17 branches -- "halos lahat ng branch" -- starting at Taft where he was part of the janitorial staff. He was also one of the pantrymen in the Escolta branch when it opened. 

Marian, 24, and her brother have core memories with Tropical Hut in it, from their first birthdays to Christmas parties.

Marian Boneo celebrating her first birthday at a Tropical Hut restaurant in 1999. Courtesy of Marian Boneo
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"Dati nung mga bata kami, 'pag sinabi namin 'pas', ibig sabihin nun pasalubong. Magdadala siya either burger, fries, or spaghetti. Kapag Christmas party naman, ang dadalhin namin isang bucket ng chicken ng Tropical Hut kasi 'matik na 'pag Tropical Hut, kami talagang magkapatid naalala ng friends namin."

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and with mass transportation suspended, Tony the branch manager would walk for an hour from his home in Cembo, Makati around 5 a.m. to report for work in Shaw Boulevard. "Konti lang food establishment na open noon so na-feel n'ya na need pa rin mag-open ng store."

"Ang dami nilang stocks nun na 'di nagamit kasi 'di masyado 'yung order, tapos ang daming branches na nag-close down nung pandemic," Marian said of her father, who retired in 2021.

After the viral Twitter post in early June, staff have been having a hard time keeping up with orders, Marian said, quoting her father's former staff members.

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For Boneo, the nostalgia is what drives people back to Tropical Hut.  "'Yung food ganun din daw taste even before, 'yung burger ganun talaga patty, walang nabago. 'Pag pumunta ka doon parang ang retro lang ng feel, mapapa-throwback ka talaga kung sino kasama mo dati, mga memories n'yo noon... Whole generation na memories."

What's next for Tropical Hut?

Marian said her father believes Tropical Hut should be revamped to capitalize on its newfound fame.

"Sabi ni dad kailangan din mag-adapt ng design and interior... pero for me torn ako doon sa changing the interior kasi 'pag papasok ka ng Tropical Hut parang time capsule siya," she said.

Marian also asked customers to be extra patient when it comes to their orders.

"Let's give time sa Tropical Hut na maka-adjust sa current demand nila ngayon. Okay lang naman na sumabay ngayon sa mga orders pero puwede rin naman next week, next month, or in the coming years, or kahit sa Christmas. Kasi feel ko naman dahil sa comeback na ito, mapapatagal pa life ng Tropical Hut," she said.

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"Sana hindi lang tayo maging customers for now, sana maging regular customers tayo sa Tropical Hut."

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