The coronavirus pandemic is leaving no stone unturned. 

Social distancing and sanitization efforts are being implemented all over the world with lockdowns as one of the most drastic measures taken to contain the spread of the virus. Many industries like aviation, retail, education and tourism have been trying to keep themselves afloat—all while providing for their employees and stakeholders. 

Besides aviation, no other industry has been hit harder and forced to adapt to entirely new operations than foodservice. Lack of physical patronage and zero foot traffic caused by the implementation of social distancing and quarantine measures have driven food and beverage establishments to close up shop and shift to new strategies in order to, first, protect the health of the communities they cater to, and second, to be able to still earn money to pay for rent as well as their employees’ salaries. 

OPERATIONS AMID THE PANDEMIC

When the coronavirus outbreak escalated in Wuhan, the Chinese government implemented a total shutdown to contain the virus’ spread. Since then, the number of cases in Wuhan has dropped significantly, as reported in WHO’s coronavirus situation report. However, there are still a lot of restaurants that have remained closed because many are still short-staffed and the majority have been affected by wage cuts as part of measures to bear economic losses. 

In Italy, which experienced a catastrophic inflation of coronavirus cases because of non-adherence to quarantine measures, the government has allowed restaurants to remain open only for food delivery. Many small businesses in Europe and the US have also begun registering their businesses for delivery in order to sustain operations as well as provide earnings for their employees when emergency financial aids just don’t cut it or, worse, are non-existent. 

Besides aviation, no other industry has been hit harder and forced to adapt to entirely new operations than foodservice. Lack of physical patronage and zero foot traffic caused by the implementation of social distancing and quarantine measures have driven food and beverage establishments to close up shop and shift to new strategies in order to, first, protect the health of the communities they cater to, and second, to be able to still earn money to pay for rent as well as their employees’ salaries. 

In the Philippines, most major fast food chains have remained open for dine-in and takeout, although strict sanitation and social distancing measures have been put in place. The same strategies are being utilized by SMEs and microenterprises. 

Since the enhanced community quarantine was implemented in Luzon two weeks ago, online and mobile food delivery platforms such as GrabFood, LalaFood and Foodpanda have been wedged into the driving seat of the social stratosphere, acting as emissaries of essentials between establishments and confined customers. 

In a statement released Mar. 24, LalaFood encouraged its loyal customers to continue their orders by enforcing a no-contact policy as well as removing the minimum cart requirement for orders. LalaFood has also been consistently updating its roster of merchants to give more options for customers. A calamity assistance fund has also been set up for partner drivers in order to alleviate some of the hardships that the community quarantine is bringing to drivers. Motorcycle hailing app Angkas is another case study in adapting to the crisis when it recently launched AngkasxRestos where they partnered with local restaurants to carry out food deliveries.

The likes of The Raintree Group and destination restaurant Hapag have also had to carefully roll out delivery functionalities into their operations while still keeping employee welfare in mind. 

In a statement LalaFood encouraged its customers to continue their orders. A calamity assistance fund has also been set up for partner drivers in order to alleviate some of the hardships that the community quarantine is bringing to drivers. Angkas is another case study in adapting to the crisis when it recently launched AngkasxRestos where they partnered with local restaurants to carry out food deliveries.

“We are just waiting for things to get a bit better,” says Kevin Villarica, chef-owner of Hapag. “We value the safety of our staff and we don’t want to put their lives at risk. If ever we already figure out a way for our employees to work without risking their health, we will start as soon as possible.”

Mijo Comfort Food has opened its doors for pickups and deliveries, all while ensuring strict kitchen and personal sanitation inside its premises. On the other hand, The Moment Group has introduced Moment the Grocer, a convenient and safe way for patrons to be able to have ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat Moment Group favorites, such as Manam’s house crispy sisig and Mo Cookies’ classic chocolate chip.

Even celebrated restaurateur Elbert Cuenca has personally delivered pizzas, folded boxes himself, offered coffee to-go as well as sold steaks, wines and champagnes at retail prices in a bid to help frontliners and quarantined patrons as much as adapt to the Luzon-wide imposed quarantine. 

Contactless delivery—where a rider leaves food on the doorstep or lobby of the customer and where cash payment is placed inside an envelope—has been enforced across delivery services, third-party or otherwise. Alongside rigorous sanitary precautions, this method minimizes the risk of contracting the virus. 

Most of these online platforms have also chosen to waive or at least lessen their delivery fees in order to make it more accessible to those who really need it.  In the first week of quarantine, LalaFood lowered the delivery fee to just P20, while this week, the company has also offered a discount code for customers. Foodpanda also announced its free delivery initiative when the community quarantine started. Angkas’ new food delivery operations were also created to benefit the biker as the delivery fee will go straight to them in an effort to supplement their daily earnings as well as help bikers book more jobs. 

While hardly a novel concept, food delivery is proving to be a game changer in the coronavirus era, one that expands the geographical scope of business, brings more convenient options to customers and stops the spread of the virus—all while staying in business. 

NEXT STEPS

While hardly a novel concept, food delivery is proving to be a game changer in the coronavirus era, one that expands the geographical scope of business, brings more convenient options to customers and stops the spread of the virus—all while staying in business. 

There’s plenty to think about after the storm has passed, too. When done correctly, investing in an in-house delivery service would greatly help in providing additional revenue from both old and new clientele. This can also open up employment opportunities for additional cooks, service staff and drivers or riders. 

For chefs, it can also be a way to enhance the menu and engage customers with special delivery-only dishes or putting a new spin on well-loved dishes they love. Still, strengthening partnerships with third-party services is also beneficial by supporting this sector of the industry.

The speed with which restaurants have been able to adapt and take control of the COVID-19 crisis is a feat of ingenuity and passion. If done wisely and correctly, deliveries, in the face of what could be a harsh reality, can become a valuable staple in restaurant operations in the years to come. 

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