Amid pandemic, SMEs opt for cashless transactions

Unlike other casual and fast food restaurant chains, Pan De Cielo, a restaurant specializing in Bicolano dishes, only has one branch and it too had to close down when the entire Metro Manila was placed under the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in March.

For two months, the COVID-19 pandemic meant zero income and piling utilities expenses, such as electricity and water, for the restaurant’s owners.

So when the government eased the lockdown restrictions in many parts of the country by the third week of May, Pan De Cielo, located in Marikina City, seized the opportunity and partially re-opened operations, which initially concentrated on delivery services, a move that prompted a change in mindset among the restaurant’s owners when it comes to its mode of payments.

For Maco Atienza Prestado, manager and co-founders of Pan De Cielo, the safest and most strategic response to re-opening amid a pandemic would be to transition into cashless payments.

In a way, she also thinks that contactless transactions would help their business survive during these trying times because it’s safer, cleaner, and more convenient both for businesses and customers.

That, since by using contactless payments, consumers and merchants can prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“We have explored the GCash and PayMaya payment mode, aside from the bank transfer that we have already been implementing since last year,” Prestado told Business Bulletin.

GCash and PayMaya are mobile wallet applications and the ones currently leading the digital financial services in the Philippines. They are operated by Globe Telecom, Inc. and Voyager Innovations, Inc., a sister company of Smart Communications, respectively.

Like Prestado, PayMaya President Shailesh Baidwan also thinks going cashless could help businesses, especially Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), survive the pandemic.

Baidwan emphasized that while digital payments adoption in the country was already growing pre-COVID-19, the recent public health crisis and resulting physical distancing and safety measures have hastened digital payments adoption in general.

At PayMaya, its total combined volume has grown more than 2.5 times year-on-year in June. Moving forward, it sees strong continuous growth across businesses from consumer wallet to enterprise acquiring and Smart Padala domestic remittance.

In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown, PayMaya likewise launched PayMaya Negosyo, a solution specifically designed to address the needs of MSMEs.

Food ordering businesses, fresh produce vendors, and Instagram sellers are now able to accept digital payments with PayMaya Negosyo. 

With the PayMaya Negosyo app, one doesn’t have to set up an e-Commerce website and a small business owner can easily accept QR and other forms of digital payments with just a smartphone.

“All you have to do is download the app, register, and submit the requirements in-app. In 24 to 48 hours, you will have your own PayMaya Negosyo QR in your app. You will also enjoy higher account limits for your business transactions,” Baidwan further said.

Sure going cashless is just one of the strategies that Pan De Cielo has implemented in response to the health crisis, but it could be a defining moment for this mid-tier restaurant's future. 

Pan De Cielo is almost nine years old now and currently employs only 70 percent of its workforce amid the persistence of COVID-19 pandemic, but one of its owners, Prestado, believes that her business can still keep up.

“Because of the online payment mode, some of our customers who are out of the country are able to order food for their loved ones who are here in the metro. We just arrange for the food to be delivered to the recipient’s doorstep via Lalamove or other delivery partners—be it inside Marikina or the neighboring cities,” Prestado said. She really seemed optimistic.