What does branded apparel have to do with high-end restaurants? At face value, not very much, but in this pandemic, it’s a show of support for long-time restaurateur friends affected by the months-long lockdown.
Mark “Jappy” Gonzalez, founder and managing director of H&F Retail Concepts (Homme et Femme, Univers, and mono brand stores Commes des Garçons, Balenciaga) was fortunate to reopen some of his stores two months ago.
Restaurants were still closed at the time or were offering takeaway and delivery in a limited capacity. It got him thinking about friends whose businesses were suffering.
“I was looking for a way to help support these businesses,” Gonzalez told Lifestyle in a phone interview.
He came up with a shopping and dining concept that launched July 18 where customers at Univers or Homme et Femme, with a minimum single receipt purchase worth P30,000, are entitled to two vouchers worth P2,000 that can be used in participating restaurants. The list includes: a mano, Blackbird, Gallery by Chele, Grace Park, Lusso, M Dining, Made Nice, Mamou, Metiz, The Test Kitchen, Toyo Eatery and Hapag Manila.
“I handpicked these restaurants because they’re owned by friends who are also our customers,” Gonzalez said. “A meal in any of these establishments will set you back by more than P2,000 but our clients already know that. It’s basically a way to boost business in these restaurants.”
A complementary promo is ongoing in Gonzalez’s youngest multilabel store, Hoodwink, where a minimum purchase of P6,000 entitles shoppers to vouchers for preselected takeout meals from Café Bola, Cibo, Mister Sando and Tetsuo.
“This pandemic caught us at an early stage in our business, but we’re also quite a young team, so we’re looking at the other side of the coin and using this as a learning opportunity to build a resilient foundation for a mano,” said restaurant owner Amado Fores. “We’re thankful that in the midst of this, we’re able to join this community effort to keep our industries going.”
Show of force
Chef Chele Gonzalez of Gallery by Chele considers the project a show of force. “In this time of crisis, we need to understand just one simple word, ‘solidarity.’ It is necessary so we can take care of ourselves and others,” Gonzalez said.
“The F&B industry is experiencing one of its toughest challenges yet,” said chef Wesley Chan of Tetsuo. “In this time of uncertainty, local businesses must rely on their respective communities to keep the cities’ creative ecosystems afloat.”
For chef Margarita Fores of Cibo, Grace Park, Lusso and Café Bola, food and fashion go well together. “We are proud and honored to be supporting a project that supports Filipino restaurants as purveyors of good taste. We are kindred spirits with Univers who are champions of what’s tasteful, stylish and aesthetically beautiful. Let us be one together in this most challenging time to help celebrate what’s good and beautiful in life,” Fores said.
In a joint statement, Hapag Manila chefs Kevin Navoa, Kevin Villarica and Thirdy Dolatre noted that restaurants that have reopened for dine-in need support more than ever: “The past four months have been very difficult for most restaurants. Rebuilding is a long and tedious process but . . . we will do everything in our power to come back from all of this stronger. Whatever happens, we will keep moving forward, step by step, dish per dish and hopefully we all get through this together and get back to what we do best.”
In the hands of the diners
Chef Stephan Duhesme of Metiz agrees. “The only plausible message we can put out there is that the fates of the restaurant industry and the industries that make up its backbone lie in the hands of the diners,” he said.
With a maximum of 30-percent capacity at any given time, restaurants are operating at a loss. Chef Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery describes it as “quite” challenging. “We’re grateful that we have diners who trust us and who really appreciate the more personal experience! But of course, it’s really a difficult time now and we hope things look better soon not just for our industry, but for the country.”
Malou Fores of Made Nice and Mamou is concerned for her employees, but also hopes for the best. “When we ask for support at this time, it is not just for our business. It is also for the livelihood of those we employ, and can mean survival for the people who make up our suppliers. We at Mamou and Made Nice are grateful to be part of this initiative that brings our communities together. It’s with each other’s help that we’ll see through this pandemic. As with all things, this too shall pass.”
Chef Josh Boutwood of The Test Kitchen views the pandemic as a shared experience we can all learn from. “Despite the challenges our industry faces, we shall continue to believe this period in modern history is a lesson, a lesson on how to approach sustainability, the safety of our guests and team members, and our overall approach to making memories for guests when they dine in.”