As businesses are now learning amid this pandemic, it pays to be agile and adaptable when times are tough. It pays even more, though, when one is able to anticipate their consumers’ needs by proactively monitoring market behavior trends—which is exactly the strategy that Kitchen City, a nine-year-old Metro Manila-based canteen business, employed to survive the country’s enhanced community quarantine.
“Around the first week of March, we [had already] been observing the behavior of other countries when they were in lockdown. The only things that were allowed to operate were groceries, drugstores and food delivery—so we had to pivot our business to food delivery to remain relevant,” say Peejay Yambao and Jun Abelardo, founders of Kitchen City.
That pivot led to the quick establishment of Kitchen City Frozen Meals on March 17, which supplemented the 70-percent closure of their cafeterias, located mostly in the business districts of Ortigas, Makati City and Bonifacio Global City. And while one can argue that food businesses with delivery are now a dime a dozen, given that restaurants are still operating at a limited capacity, Kitchen City promises dishes that are, first and foremost, delicious and prepared in a safe manner.
They are particularly stringent on the safety aspect, and ensures this through their 4,000-square meter Food Kitchen commissary at the Food Terminal Inc., Taguig City, which has a warehouse, freezer storage, butchering area, packing area and an administration office. Aside from their facility being compliant with food safety protocols, Kitchen City guarantees their customers that they are getting the best products by using only National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS)-certified meats. Rigorously trained safety officers work onsite, and all of Kitchen City’s delivery partners are in-house staff.
“We do not want to use third-party providers because we want to control the entire experience for food safety standards,” Abelardo explains.
As for variety, Kitchen City will not be found wanting, as there are frozen versions of 60 chef-prepared dishes which customers can choose from; and each can easily serve a family of four or five (prices range from P250-P550). These include “signature” creations, such as beef caldereta, kare-kare, roast beef and salpicao; Filipino favorites sisig, dinuguan, paksiw and adobo; light and healthy options, which include fish fillet, salmon and tuna dishes; and veggie goodies like laing and gising-gising.
As with their canteen business, which is slowly bouncing back, the entire Kitchen City Frozen Meals business model is hinged on one thing: providing excellent customer service.
“Our top pillar is our ‘delighting our customer’ policy. When you listen to what they want, the business just keeps on getting stronger,” says Yambao. As the Philippines enters the “new normal” phase amid the pandemic, Yambao and Abelardo believe both their office cafeteria and frozen food businesses will play a major role in the country’s food industry.
“We expect our canteens to play a greater part in the sustenance of the employees given two reasons: nearby options like restaurants will start to close down, and [the] change in [consumer] behavior, with the option of going out to get your food becomes less likely,” says Yambao.
Abelardo adds that with Kitchen City Frozen meals, the mentality that frozen meals aren’t as good as freshly cooked ones will change. “Post-COVID-19, we hope that the value of convenience, safety and great taste will be fundamental reasons for people to continue patronizing our offerings,” he says.
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