Restaurant owners have been itching to get back to the sorely missed habit of serving people. That’s why when the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases allowed the gradual and restricted opening of dine-in service in areas under general community quarantine, many of them immediately opened their doors.
Eric Dee, COO and president of Foodee Global Concepts, started to reopen Tim Ho Wan, Hawker Chan, Mesa and Pound. Kam’s Roast, LlaoLlao, Sunnies Café, Bench Cafe and Tsuta will follow suit.
“We were very prepared as we have been practicing for a bit, so the transition has been smoother than expected,” Dee said. “Some LGUs (local government units) had last-minute requirements we had to fulfill, but we got them done.”
To regain the consumers’ trust and to prove that it is indeed safe to eat within their spaces, the group has gone above and beyond the government guidelines for safety.
“We have decided to focus our efforts on #DeeliciouslySafe dining. Our brands already stand for the values they offer so we want to push safe dining on top of that.”
Dee adds, “We aren’t sure about the survival [of the company] but we won’t sit down and do nothing. We will take that risk and make that investment because it’s what we feel is necessary to get the customers back to the seats and eat with confidence, with no anxiety.”
Apart from the Department of Trade and Industry-initiated protocols, Dee’s company has relied on UVC technology to help prevent the spread of the virus in their establishments.
It’s a type of radiation that uses more energetic wavelengths of light that prevent viral particles from spreading and populating. They use it to disinfect the staff’s clothing materials and personal protective equipment, all the items being delivered to and from their stores, the cabinets that store all their plates and utensils, as well as the food that leaves the kitchen.
Dee admits that operating at 30-percent capacity is far from profitable, but it’s definitely better than total shutdown.
“We aren’t looking to earn at the moment. What we are looking at is survival. We keep our teams informed on the real story. They know that we are [on choppy] waters and it is important for us, the captains of the ship, to make sure that we steer them to calm waters. Easier said than done but we will do this together.”
Things indicate hope for Foodee since the lockdown eased up. Takeout and delivery increased 90 percent, while mall walk-ins and pickups are up 80 percent.
“I know that we will dine again,” said Dee. “I mean, we need to dine again. But I’m afraid it will take time, so we will focus on survival, weather this storm, come out stronger and look back on this pandemic as a turning point to that bright future.”
Chef collaborations, popular before the pandemic, are also back.
The first to work together on a limited-time-only menu are Kevin Navoa, Thirdy Dolatre and Kevin Villarica of Hapag and Jorge Mendez of Ohayo Maki and Ramen Bar.
“We’ve been wanting to cook with Jorge, even before the pandemic,” says Dolatre. The takeout menu features ingredients and flavors of the Philippines and Japan.
Each set meal begins with laing tamago sando appetizer, followed by the customer’s choice from three equally delicious set dishes—panutsa-shoyu chicken with Japanese potato salad, ginger layu and dayap ponzu sauce; ebi relleno furai with katsuodashi rice, dayap miso sauce, sesame sitsaro, and ensaladang talong; and the Japanese bagnet curry with sous vide egg and sunomon cucumbers.
Logistics wasn’t easy to sort out because of lack of manpower, but the eagerness to learn from each other and the need to think outside the box drove them to continue the project.
It paid off as many people subscribed to their offering.
“We were somewhat surprised, and at the same time not, because we knew that people had been craving for food that is different and good during this pandemic,” says Dolatre. “Jorge’s cooking style has always been spot on and it made us confident that this collaboration would be a success.” —CONTRIBUTED