Restaurateurs need a platform to stay afloat
FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos (The Freeman) - September 26, 2020 - 12:00am

Undeniably, we already sound like a broken record in stressing that our economy’s contraction this year is the highest in the ASEAN and the worst since the Marcos era. Also, we already feel like vomiting every time we talk about the unprecedented highs in unemployment rate due to our overindulgence of it. 

Yet, for the call of the European Parliament on the European Commission (EC) to initiate the procedure that may lead to the temporary withdrawal of the country’s GSP+ preferences (like zero tariff on some of our products exported to the European Union), President Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque goaded them to “go ahead” with it. 

Whether he felt he was in a poker game trying to bluff, we do not know. What is certain though is that if the EC will withdraw our GSP+ preferences, our economy will certainly contract further and more of our countrymen will be rendered jobless. Why? Because such withdrawal will make our products less competitive. 

These products include items that are farm-based (like dairy, fruits, vegetables, coconut oils, coffee, cocoa and tobacco), fish, chemicals, fertilizers, essential oils, soaps, articles of plastics and rubber. Obviously, from labor-intensive industries. 

 

So that, before we vomit again, let us talk about jobs in a different way. First and foremost, we must be all reminded that the pandemic has changed some of our habits a bit. For instance, instead of having weekly dine outswith our families, we are now opting to either cook or go for home deliveries. There is nothing wrong with that. The downside though is that, some employees (particularly those in the dining area) lost their jobs temporarily.

This situation is globally felt or experienced.  Luckily though, some countries are so wealthy that they are able to help restaurateurs and their employees survive. For instance, in the United Kingdom (UK), the government launched its “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme. In this scheme, the government essentially “subsidizes the cost of meals by up to 50% when people eat out at participating restaurants.” Thus, restaurateurs and their employees are still able to breathe comfortably. Well, the UK is awash with money. So, that’sa no-brainer.

In the USA, on the other hand, a restaurant booking platform, Seated, stood out in this trying time. As a testament, amid the coronavirus onslaught, it raised US$30 million in funding.  Uniquely, it is a platform that rewards customers with gift cards for dining out. As if, one gets paid for dining out. By the way, these are no ordinary gift cards. These are coming from known companies like Amazon, Nike, Sephora and Uber.

ThisNew York-based Seated started only in 2017 booking tables for “in-restaurant eating.” Throughout its existence, it has already accumulated some 900,000 reserved seats (for around 800 independent restaurants) and US$37 million in revenue for its restaurant partners across New York City, Boston, Atlanta and Chicago. 

Impressively, in trying to support its restaurant partners amid this ongoing pandemic, it went beyond providing reservations to “in-restaurant” diners. It recently launched Seated at Home, a takeout service. It is expected to compete against the likes of Grubhub and UberEats, with 0% commission on orders. This way, it is able to help restaurants make use of their underutilized kitchen.

Not only that, it also acquired VenueBook, a platform for “event planners to reserve space at restaurants and other venues.” Reportedly, it has 120,000 event planners in its fold.This way, they are able to help restaurants make money for their unused spaces or private rooms. 

Simply put, with its platform’s “in-restaurant” bookings, Seated at Home and Seated Events, Seatedoffers three different ways for restaurants to earn and stay in business in the long haul. First, when the situation goes back to normal, “in-restaurant” diners will be comfortably guided where to go. Secondly, as the kitchen is currently underutilized, take-outs will be able to fill in the gap. Lastly, with booking for events also in the fold, some unused spaces or private rooms (for health or safety reasons) even during this pandemic can also be filled up. 

Indeed, from this kind of platform, we can surely learn a thing or two. That closing one’s restaurant, just because of this pandemic, is not an option. That we can always find a way to stay afloat (usingwhatever structure or equipment we already have) by tweaking a bit the way we do or operate our existing business.

Certainly, this kind of platform, if we can replicate, will make restaurant businesses in the country remain profitable.

foabalos@yahoo.com

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