In line with F&B Report’s initiative to keep everyone updated with the times and trends, the first F&B Summit gathered the most important and influential people in the industry, start a conversation on pressing matters, address major concerns, and impart sound advice, much like what we hope this magazine is achieving.

The guests took their time jotting down notes on the talks full of insights and ideas from the invited industry experts. Here, we have compiled points from the panel discussions to guide your business in the coming year.


Farmers and producers

The Farmers and Producers panel comprised of representatives from the government and private sector

Agriculture is very much a vital component in the economy of the country. “The contribution of agriculture in our gross domestic product is about 9.7 percent in 2016. Though small, it is third in rankings next to Industry (30.8 percent) and Services (59.5 percent). When you look at Industry, we also have manufacturing, which is 50 percent consisting of food,” says Undersecretary Berna Romulo-Puyat of the Department of Agriculture.

In the broad scope of this component, organic farming is proving to be one of the country’s strengths. According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, the Philippines ranks fifth in countries with the largest number of organic producers.

Bea Misa-Crisostomo says that the government needs to do more than just invest in farming infrastructure. “We deal with a lot of small farmers and it is not easy. We don’t have the kind of distribution and infrastructure to source ingredients, unlike other countries. We want to do right with our farmers, which is good, but also challenging because of the logistics.”

A constant challenge for organic producers is climate change. A recent United Nations report projected that up to a quarter of global food production could be lost by the year 2050 due to the combined impact of climate change, water scarcity, and land degradation. With all these hurdles in the agriculture industry, Romulo-Puyat admits that there really is no solid convergence with the farmers and the DA on what they should provide, though her position as undersecretary enables her to meet the farmers personally and know their needs on a deeper level. “When I talk to the regional directors, they only tell me the good stuff. That is why I like talking to people like Bea and Nico. They tell me what’s wrong and that’s what I want to hear.”

Hospitality industry experts

Patsy Abad shared her experiences in operating her family’s nature lodge in Basco, Batanes

The Hospitality Industry’s contribution to the GDP has grown from eight percent in 2015 to around 11 percent in 2016. This includes the whole ecosystem consisting of restaurants, hotels, travel, resorts, and everything else that surrounds these sectors, including those who are employed in this field.

Being in an industry built on customer service, challenges are an inevitable part of the daily grind. For Simon Cote, a former F&B manager at Shangri-La at the Fort, the challenge is getting the right people and training them to achieve consistency of service, as well as retaining them. Communication among team members and knowing what works for the customers keeps service consistent.

“What is beginning to happen in the industry now is polarization. One is increasing in mobile or no-touch service. You can check in and pay without meeting a person. It’s like, ‘I don’t need you; I can take care of myself.’ And therefore you will have everything in mobile, hence the rise of Airbnb,” says Bel Castro of Enderun College. Meanwhile, the opposite end of no-touch service is extremely high-touch service or “I want you to do everything for me,” which is commonly present in a restaurant.

When it comes to technology, Fundacion Pacita and most of the accommodations in Batanes are sticking to the traditional way. “With the influx of tourists, there is a need for responsible practices to preserve our heritage and the environment. For them to be able to protect our island paradise, people turn to the homestay culture.” More than 60 percent of accommodations in Batanes are homestays, where guests can live in authentic Ivatan houses and eat Ivatan food.

What is beginning to happen in the industry now is polarization. One is increasing in mobile or no-touch service. You can check in and pay without meeting a person. Meanwhile, the opposite end of no-touch service is extremely high-touch service or “I want you to do everything for me,” which is commonly present in a restaurant.

There’s potential for the Filipino hospitality industry to be at par with international standards, thanks to our warmth and friendliness. However, thriving in the industry requires more than these traits. “It’s technique and proper knowledge that are needed to go hand-in-hand with the beautiful smiles and good morning greetings,” says Morales. “Service is the quickest way you can increase your revenue, and good service always saves a bad dining experience. No amount of free food can save a horrible service encounter,” adds Castro.

What’s lacking is the available technology and education that’s limited mostly to Metro Manila and Cebu accommodations. Government programs that offer Tourism Industry skills education have been around for years but aren’t used efficiently. Though the government’s Tourism Industry Skills Program (TISP) has helped quite a number of competent trainers improve in hotel and restaurant management, there is a big disparity in the capacity of resort or hotel employees in provinces like Palawan, Ilocos, or Siargao compared to employees in the metro.


Restaurateurs and chefs

Eric Dee talked about the challenges in bringing foreign franchises into the country.

Each week there seems to be a new restaurant opening, a hip and trendy food park livening up a neighborhood, or a new food concept that people are talking about. “At the end of the day, the consumers benefit from it. We try to give the best value for everyone. The bubble will not burst because you’re looking at an expansion. New players mean a lot of excitement for the F&B industry. We welcome the challenge for the benefit of the consumers,” says Eric Dee.

Chefs and restaurateurs should define their target market first and know their palate. Flexibility is required, especially if the tastes of the target market and the chef are very different. “I combine what I love to eat and what people like to eat. Normally the things we want to do are on the expensive side in terms of ingredients and quality. So when you do the math, profit is a bit smaller,” says Happy Ongpauco-Tiu.

Chef JP Anglo holds meetings and presents potential dishes to his team for their next menu. “I remove my ego. It’s good to have people with you who can assess your dishes because from there, malalait ka na.” For Josh Boutwood, he’s able to do both to a great extent, thanks to Test Kitchen. “Our menu changes every day, so when customers make a reservation, there’s no compromise because they wouldn’t even know what they’re going to eat. But when I go to my corporate world, of course we have to be flexible on where the trend is going and what people want to spend their money.”

The chefs and restaurateurs panel

Eric Dee and Josh Boutwood are part of a collective that brings franchises of internationally known restaurants to the country. Foreign franchises give you a bit of an edge because you already have a system set up, according to Dee. However, execution and brand equity should be perfected for the franchise to be a success. “Bringing foreign brands means that you will think of how it will sit in the consumer’s eyes and if it’s a brand that they can connect with. You have to be very cautious with them,” says Boutwood.

The food and beverage business is not glamorous at all. It involves a lot of time, effort, money, and personal sacrifices to make a restaurant happen. “When financials go down, it’s time to close. In my case, I chose to close my restaurant simply because I wasn’t there,” says Boutwood. JP Anglo has also closed down a couple of restaurants but he has opened new ones since “I love food so much it’s the only thing I know how to do well.” Lee Watson reminds chefs and restaurateurs not to get too far away from what they love. “The further you get into the industry, the more of an administrator you become. Don’t focus too much on sitting behind a laptop having burnouts and stay as close to your passion as possible.