Life After Lockdown: Restos pivot to delivery as Filipinos’ social life moves away from dining
Rosette Adel (Philstar.com) - May 28, 2020 - 7:00am

Philstar.com's Life After Lockdown is a compendium of references on Filipinos' shift to a new normalcy during a coronavirus pandemic.

MANILA, Philippines — Food and beverage businesses were buzzing with walk-in guests offered with culinary experiences before the health crisis. Now, the pandemic is forcing the already strained industry to reinvent the dining experience as cities graduate from the lockdown to a “general community quarantine.”

Will restaurants remain open? With eased restrictions on movement under GCQ, food manufacturing and food supply chain businesses, including food retail establishments such as supermarkets, grocery stores and food preparation services are granted “full operational capacity.”

  • Restaurant goers and foodies will have to resort to take-away orders as dining in remains prohibited.
     
  • Mall and shopping centers are reopening within limits, with a 50% work-on-site setup while the rest of mall employees continue to work remotely or under alternative arrangements.
     
  • Mall-based food establishments, therefore, will only have partial operations if at all.

How will restaurants be like? There is no clear picture yet since there is no restaurant body or regulator in the country to draw up guidelines for the food and beverage industry, chefs Angelo Comsti and Margarita Fores admitted.

In the absence of an industry-wide consensus, the Department of Tourism is proposing health and safety guidelines for the reopening of restaurants. Recommendations include:

  • Reduced restaurant capacity to 50%.
  • Mobile ordering.
  • No-face-mask-no-entry policy except, of course, while eating.
  • Pre-screen and assessment of employees to require proper hygiene and sanitation, the wearing of single use-gloves and the reduction of physical interactions.
  • Demarcation of the dining area to allow social distancing of employees and guests to at least a meter apart.
  • Demarcation of queue areas and self-service stations.

Restaurateurs’ plans: Major food and beverage chains each come up with solutions to adopt to social distancing measures and assure jittery customers.

  • Bistro Group president and COO Jean Paul Manuud told Philstar.com that protocols will strictly be enforced in their dining destinations once they reopen.
     
  • Such protocols include: 1. Making available only 30% of seats to allow distancing of 6 meters per person, 2. Prohibiting the gathering of large groups, 3. Frequent sanitation of tables and chairs, 4. Using disposable menus, and 5. Setting up of contactless payments.
     
  • Chef Gene Gonzales, an author and food and wine consultant, foresees that companies will need to invest in redesigning the physical arrangements of restaurants, such as in making tables larger and disabling air-conditioning.
     
  • “Staff will also have to wear personal protective equipment; menus may be downsized because there will be [fewer] people working in the kitchen. There will be a limit to group sizes,” Gonzales said in an online interview with Philstar.com. 
     
  • Chef Roland Laudico of Guevarra's and Chef Lau's Pugon Roasters said his restaurants' operations would just follow the new regulations, especially in rearranging seats and adjusting business hours in view of possible curfews. 
     
  • Employees of meat supplier Consistent Frozen Solutions Inc. are to strictly follow sanitary measures including the wearing of masks for the entire shift, frequent hand-washing and disinfecting, use of disposable gloves for loading and delivery, director Claudia Rivera-Quimpo told Philstar.com.
     
  • Deployed staff are required to wear disposable gloves for loading and delivery, sanitize trucks and practice social distancing when delivering to customers.

Shift to delivery and adjustment of offerings: Cecile Poignant, trend analyst and social prospectivist, said restaurants would need to continue running delivery services to cope. Doing so requires changes in cooking style and offering a menu suited for deliveries.

  • Eric Dee, chief executive officer of one of Manila’s largest multi-brand Foodee Global Concepts that carries brands like Mesa, Sunnies Café, Pound, Michelin-starred casual dining restaurants Hawker Chan, Tim Ho Wan, Tsuta, Kam’s Roast, among others, agreed with Poignant’s outlook and likewise adapted this change to his business.
     
  • “We’re having to do menu optimization and delivery optimization because not everything delivers well,” Dee said at Metro Style’s webinar in April. He explained that the reorientation of the business from a 10% delivery to a 90% delivery is a “paradigm shift” that requires a change in menu.
     
  • Manuud of Bistro Group said that for the delivery and take-out, their restaurants including chains TGIFridays, Italianni’s, Hard Rock Café, Denny’s, Watami, Fish & Co, Bulgogi Brothers, among others, created menus especially for the delivery category and rolled out contactless payment.
     
  • Fores, owner of Cibo di M Signature Caterer, said mall-based restaurants will find reopening more challenging. She said that of her 16 stores, only five are currently operating as they shifted to delivery services but moved away from third-party delivery solutions.
     
  • Her team, she said, is fine-tuning ways of packing orders for delivery and take-aways as Italian food easily spoil. 

Contactless dining: Restaurant aggregator and food delivery startup Zomato announced earlier this month that it would introduce contactless dining post-lockdown to make the dining experience "safer and more efficient by eliminating the use of high touch elements at restaurants."

  • Zomato said that it is currently educating and preparing restaurants for contactless menu, contactless ordering and contactless payment.
     
  • "This eliminates the need for menu cards and bill books, and reduces avoidable interactions with the restaurant staff. With features such as the ability to pay for yourself or for the entire table and order a second round right on the app, we want to ensure that your in-restaurant experience remains the same," Zomato said.
     
  • "Lastly, you don’t have to wait or ask for anyone to place an order or pay the bill anymore, thus making the entire experience far more seamless and convenient than ever before," the company added.

Catering services brace for about-face: With events and celebrations called off and gatherings still unlikely, caterers need to modify operations toward delivering individually packed cooked meals, Fores said.

  • Laudico sees "a lot of home dining and entertainment, private caterings, more small parties and intimate events while delivery and take out will be the new normal," he told Philstar.com.

Streamlining franchises and creating new revenue streams: The fast food industry will have to rationalize for sustainability, Dominic Hernandez, chair of Franchise Asia Philippines, said.

  • Location will matter less, rendering branches that are across each other in competition. “So, if you’re in one retail trade area, you can’t be four or five there competing after the same number of populations that needs your product,” Hernandez said at a same forum.
     
  • Food businesses may also have to go beyond delivery services. Comsti said that among the creative ways to earn post-lockdown while managing supply is the selling of frozen goods and ready-to-cook meals.
     
  • Menus have to be simplified, Comsti suggested, to offer include more “comfort food” and sale of dining coupons on a pay-now-eat-later basis.
     
  • Some chefs take advantage of their popularity online to teach diners how to cook their signature dishes and use their take home kits, Dee said.
     
  • Street food chains such as Angel’s Burger installed slides in some of its branches to avoid customer contact while other restaurants installed sanitation tents for kitchen crew.
     
  • Starbucks in the Philippines recently found some success in expanding its drive-thru service.

BISTRO GROUP COVID-19 FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY GENERAL COMMUNITY QUARANTINE LIFE AFTER LOCKDOWN MARGARITA FORES NEW NORMAL NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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