Metro Manila kicked off 2022 on high alert after an Omicron surge brought about by the holidays. In the last two years, as with the rise and fall of new variants and surges, regularly changing restrictions became the norm, and these have undoubtedly affected most businesses.
One that has been most drastically impacted is the food and beverage industry, particularly restaurants, which were fundamentally built as spaces for people to gather and convene in-person—the interactions with chefs, sommeliers, and front-of-house teams are a large part of the experience. Establishments have had to respond quickly, while ensuring that safety—of both guests and staff—remains a top priority.
Word-of-mouth referrals are huge. If you love the food, talk about it and let your friends know.
Chef Josh Boutwood, whose Helm was the sole new Philippine addition to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ Discovery Series in 2021, created a singular menu that could be dexterously executed for both dine-in and takeout.
Hapag, by chefs Kevin Navoa, Thirdy Dolatre, and Kevin Villarica, part of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’ Essence of Asia collection, put together family meals, sharing-style comfort dishes that can be enjoyed at home.
Miko Calo of Metronome, voted Chef of the Year by Tatler Dining, began offering a lunch menu of casual bistro fare, as well as a takeaway concept called Lazy Oeuf.
Vegan restaurant Green Bar, by sisters Jade and Sarada Santos, converted their windows to a walk-up takeaway counter, introduced cashless payments and a Frozen Products line, developed their website to allow customers to order directly from them (instead of via third-party apps), and petitioned for the local government to make their al fresco dining space permanent.
Foodee Global Concepts, the multi-brand restaurant group led by Eric Dee, launched the #DeeliciouslySafe campaign, and after optimizing the digitalization needed in this day and age, entered the cloud kitchen space via Kraver’s Canteen.
Compared to the beginning of the pandemic, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel, but when the tunnel will end still remains unseen. And if we want our favorite restaurants to survive and thrive, we need to help them.
These are tough times. We've seen restaurants succumb to this pandemic and shut their doors. What we need is kindness towards each other.
Here’s what we can do:
Dine in responsibly. “Come out and dine (only) if you are COVID-free because you can possibly hurt the livelihood of staff and the restaurant itself by coming out and spreading the virus,” advise Hapag’s Kevin Navoa and Thirdy Dolatre. “This would mean closing the restaurant for at least two weeks.”
Order takeout or delivery. If customers don’t feel safe dining out yet, they can support their favorite restaurants by ordering takeout or delivery— and preferably directly from the restaurants, suggests Metronome’s Miko Calo. If the restaurant has gift cards or merchandise, those are alternative ways to support.
If you enjoyed it, share it on social media. “Word-of-mouth referrals are huge,” Green Bar’s Jade Santos shares. “If you love it, talk about it and let your friends know. We love and encourage social media interaction as that gives restaurants more visibility in the community. Like, comment, share! Leave reviews! Tag us on our social media accounts!”
Give constructive feedback directly to the restaurant’s management or to the chefs. While there is such a thing as freedom of speech, this is not the right time to air petty grievances all over the internet when restaurant workers are risking their lives.
“If a restaurant you have dined in at has a few problems or issues, you can go straight to their management and maybe even help them further by giving them suggestions,” recommend Navoa and Dolarte. Adds Josh Boutwood of Helm, Test Kitchen, and Savage, “Share negative feedback directly to us so we can work on fixing it rather than filtering through social media posts.”
Be kind. “We seem to look short-staffed all the time, but our members are highly trained,” discloses Boutwood. “If a dish takes a little longer, it may be because it’s just two hands cooking instead of four and we are making sure that the experience is exactly how we want it to be.”
Adds Eric Dee of Foodee, “These are tough times, and what we are doing as restaurateurs is to help jumpstart the economy. We've seen a countless number of restaurants succumb to this pandemic and shut their doors. What we need is kindness towards each other, knowing that we are all in this together.”