Food business will keep us alive

Published September 27, 2020, 7:59 AM

by John Legaspi

Ampy Fernandez, 60, a resident of Brgy. Culiat Quezon City, cooks puto’t dinuguan at home to accomodate her friend’s order.

In a span of six months, many Filipinos have become bosses of their own businesses thanks to layoffs and companies shutting down. Here’s a revelation—Filipinos really have a knack for building a food business. They brought their heirloom kitchen recipes out, channeled their inner chefs, and introduced to the world the product of their passion, hoping that it would help them survive the crisis.

Posts of homecooked meals, both trendy and classic, have since flooded our social media walls, making us salivate as we scroll. It is undeniable that starting a food business is the smartest entrepreneurial investment in this pandemic. While it is fascinating to see regular Filipinos take on leadership roles and unleash their cooking prowess, not all of us are equipped with the right set of skills to keep a business going.

To help you get ahead, we’ve asked seasoned Filipino chefs and restaurateurs to give their best advice to help you take your food project to a full-blown, successful business.

Focus on the product

Thinking of the best food product is, first and foremost, the key to having a successful food business. While entrepreneurs can easily ride on food trends, it is also best to have a significant taste profile that will make your brand unique. The way to do this is by playing with your strengths rather than what’s buzzing.

That is why Josh Boutwood, corporate chef for the Bistro Group, advises fellow restaurateurs and budding food entrepreneurs to “stick to the DNA of their concept.”

Josh Boutwood

“It is imperative that we keep what we do well and keep it intact as much as possible, move with the times and adjust,” he says. “We’ve got to assess the situation… and constantly learn as the days go by.”

Communicate with your team

“There are a number of things that we did in order to make the business sustainable,” says Abba Napa co-founder of The Moment Group. “One is to build a tree of communications that allows us to disseminate messages to our team. In a crisis, it is important to send information to everybody at the same time.”

Abba Napa

Employees are the backbone of the business. Even for a tiny food venture, getting your team on the same page assures a smooth operation. Building a communication channel everyone can easily access is necessary. Also, your co-workers aren’t just the people you work with in the kitchen these days. Suppliers and delivery couriers are also included in the list of people you need to learn to cooperate and communicate with.

Create online payment channels

As social and physical distancing is strictly implemented, providing to-go meals and doing deliveries are becoming essential parts of food businesses’ operation. Securing that your brand has an option for online payment not only helps minimize the spread of the virus, but it also makes for a convenient service.

Use the power of testimonials

In the past months, social media has been the safest and most efficient marketplace. With its free for all platforms, it is easy to reach potential customers from different locations in the country. But with so much competition present online, it would be beneficial to have a different voice to communicate your product, and that is through the power of testimonials. 

“The moment you gain followers, use the power of their testimonials,” says Chef Joseph Viel of Commissario PH. “When I have conversations with my clients, I ask them if I could screenshot it and post their comments about my food online. That’s the best way to capture your crowd.”

Joseph Viel

Be strict with finances

Check your operation cost. This is a business after all. Make sure you are not exceeding your budget and you are still making a profit from what you are selling.

“Find a good balance,” Chef Joseph advises. “The problem with other online sellers, in my humble opinion, is that their products tend to be too expensive. The truth is that, ever since the lockdown, everyone has been trying their hand on food business. So they will always choose the one that is mas mura (a lot cheaper).”

Have mental fortitude

“These days, it’s important to be physically and mentally well in what we do, so we can focus and plan effective procedures for our business,” says Chef Dave Cervantes of 22 Grams Patisserie.

Dave Cervantes

While you are being optimistic about your journey as a food entrepreneur, some factors may come in to knock you off your game, whether it is a slight dilemma on production or a bad comment online. When dealing with criticism, it is best to know where your customers are coming from and how they understand your food. Embracing comments may be hard, but they can also be a great basis for where to improve your business.

Consistency is the key

To build a lasting brand, or at least a thriving one for beginners, food entrepreneurs must make a good impression, all the time. This goes not just on the flavors of your product, but also on the quality of service you give. Sanitary protocols have been more important. Religiously adhering to those and performing the same quality service to all your clients are essential in earning their trust.

Miguel Caleon

“I think that as long as you maintain safety practices, build a certain security for your customers, making them feel safe… then the business will be in good hands,” says Miguel Caleon, manager of legacy restaurant Little Quiapo.