When the enhanced community quarantine was enforced, restaurants had two options: halt operations or tweak the model to offer delivery and takeout. After all, completely closing the business is a big risk for entrepreneurs especially now that the quarantine has been extended to Apr. 30. But with the COVID-19 pandemic coinciding with the Lenten season, how are restaurants adapting to this unusual circumstance where food and faith hang precariously in balance?/U

With 86 percent of the Philippine population identifying as Roman Catholic, the 40 days of fasting and abstinence under the quarantine period is also becoming a time of reflection and penitence. This situation entails veering away from daily routines and giving up social gatherings, including eating out. As a result, restaurants are put in a situation that necessitates accommodating Catholic traditions without coming across as just capitalizing on a business opportunity amid the quarantine. 

In the US, some bishops have announced to their parishioners about waiving meat abstinence and instead replacing this sacrifice with acts of charity and piety. It’s a move that is sensitive to concerns about food security and limited food supply across supermarkets

Looking back, the success of limited-edition Lenten meals can be attributed to the first of its kind: the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish. It was the Good Friday of 1962 when the fish sandwich was introduced to the public alongside the Hula Burger, a sandwich stuffed with grilled pineapple and cheese. While the Filet-O-Fish was a hit, the Hula Burger was forced into retirement after poor sales. Through trial and error, the Filet-O-Fish became a fixture in the food chain’s menu and the rest was history.

In the US, some bishops have announced to their parishioners about waiving meat abstinence and instead replacing this sacrifice with acts of charity and piety. It’s a move that is sensitive to concerns about food security and limited food supply across supermarkets. 

LENT IN THE LOCAL LANDSCAPE

What about in the Philippines? Do special Lenten menus send a message that businesses care more about profit? Hardly but we mustn’t forget that while respect for religious traditions is expected, the troubling times today call for a particularly conscious reception to everyone’s welfare. Not a single individual is spared from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, frankly, has turned into emotional warfare. That we all need to look out after each other is the reprieve that could justify the dichotomy of finding beauty in chaos. Or in this case, capitalizing on opportunities that may very well dictate whether someone survives or not. 

For instance, agriculture, the main livelihood of the country’s biggest workforce, faces uncertainty from the threat of COVID-19. And while the Department of Agriculture is allotting P1-billion loan assistance to agri-fishery micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs) to ensure food security as well as action plans that let local government units bulk-buy agricultural goods from Kadiwa outlets, the private sector is just as capable of extending help through small punctuations that pay forward to the whole enterprise. 

The overall message we can hold on to right now is that restaurateurs can turn something straightforwardly commercial into one that has meaning for both businesses and the community they serve. 

And yes, that includes everything from delivery and takeout services that support gig economy workers to special Lenten menus that can guarantee additional income to local agri-fishery MSMEs, farmers and fisherfolk. 

In the US, seafood dishes during Lent of 2014 increased over 20 percent in sales. In the Philippines, the success of Lent-friendly dishes can be attributed to Filipinos being open to trying out new things in the market aside from being devout Catholics. Of course, limited-edition menus are not new in the local context but the overall message we can hold on to right now is that restaurateurs can turn something straightforwardly commercial into one that has meaning for both businesses and the community they serve. 

If you’re interested in sampling Lenten dishes, here are some establishments that offer special menus for pick-up, delivery and takeout:

PEPPER LUNCH

Branches are open only at Pepper Lunch Ayala Center Cebu, Robinsons Galleria Cebu, SM City Bacolod, and Gaisano Mall of Davao

ARISTOCRAT RESTAURANT

The following branches are open: Roxas Boulevard, Jupiter Street Bel-Air Makati, 518 Banawe Quezon City, and 238 Banawe Quezon City.

BACOLOD CHICKEN INASAL

Available on selected branches and GrabFood

COMMISARY KITCHEN

Orders are placed through their Facebook Messenger for delivery only 

XO46 HERITAGE BISTRO

Available for delivery through Foodpanda and GrabFood

LIDO COCINA TSINA

Order can be placed via www.lidodelivery.com, 8888-5436, GrabFood, and Foodpanda

SUGARHOUSE

Orders placed via Instagram and delivers to select areas only

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive all the tools and solutions entrepreneurs need to stay updated on the latest news in the industry