Online food enterprises cook up ways to stand out | Inquirer Business

Online food enterprises cook up ways to stand out

With burgeoning of new businesses comes increased clutter, heightened competition
/ 05:01 AM October 23, 2020

Chef Ellaine Miles from Q Chen makes quality home-cooked meals

With one of the longest and most crippling lockdown restrictions in the world, Manila has compelled many of its residents to put up their own businesses to shore up income. Thus the rise of different online food businesses that cater to every palate imaginable. But with the increasing number of small businesses that surface online, old and new entrepreneurs strive to seek an edge to stand out from the rest of the competition and win their share of Filipinos’ wallets.

Quality and quantity

What Q Chen (Quality Kitchen) claims sets it apart from the many new food businesses online is right there in the name— the quality of the food that comes out of its busy kitchen.


Ellaine Miles, founder and main chef of Q Chen, is not a newcomer to the business and culinary scene as she worked as an executive chef and operations manager for a resort in Cebu before the pandemic.


With quarantine restrictions leaving many physical restaurants closed, Miles saw an opportunity in May to start her endeavor while food availability was still limited. Cooking different dishes daily to feed her family, she would then post photos of these dishes on social media that would pique the interest of her friends. Citing that her friends missed food from restaurants that remained closed, they started ordering from Miles, and thus Q Chen was born.

“Our concept is like this, every week I make a certain theme,” says Miles about the uniqueness of Q Chen. Instead of having a fixed menu, they have a rotating menu that changes every week to keep things new and exciting but keep their bestselling dishes available for order upon request each week.

Starting a business at the height of the pandemic had some difficulties for Miles at the beginning. With strict regulations, specific ingredient supplies she would need for her recipes were limited or out of stock. There was also the pervasive fear of getting sick when going to the market. But as things shifted to general community quarantine, groceries became laxer and well-stocked and her fear quelled somewhat.

As to her plans for Q Chen, Miles says that it depends on the people and what the market wants but for now, she is grateful that running a business with her cooking skills keeps her busy.

Don Bakes’ bread line is inspired by travels abroad

Tasting the world at home

Uncertainty is a common feeling experienced in times such as these and is exactly what stopped Don Orense from taking on a new role overseas during a pandemic.

Orense, an experienced luxury hotelier turned returning overseas Filipino expatriate, is the cofounder of Don Bakes Manila, which he says “brings some of the world’s best tasting flavors to the Philippines. It offers high-quality products that bring the flair of best international cuisines we’ve tasted overseas.”


Don Bakes Manila launched with their travel-inspired baked bread such as gourmet pan de sal influenced by the countries that Orense and his companions traveled to during their time working abroad. In the future, the business aims to expand with other products that include mains, snacks, desserts, etc. aside from their initial offerings as Orense sees a huge potential to grow the business and make it a staple brand for Filipinos.

But with new ventures come new sets of challenges as Orense found himself facing hurdles when setting up Don Bakes.

“The lockdowns made it harder to seek suitable local office and production areas. It was harder to meet with lessors and schedule site inspections since everyone is extra careful of the situation. It was also much harder to register our business as the online procedures and limited manpower of relevant government offices took much longer to process,” he says.

Starting a business in the midst of a pandemic is a whole challenge in itself as well.

Orense laments that before the pandemic, the economic landscape was more vibrant and consumers were more open to spending on anything. Now, disposable income is limited and this is where business owners must market the value of their products better to stand out among other businesses.

“There is also a faster need to adapt and leverage digital marketing and online distribution channels to deliver business results,” he says.

New normal meets new challenges

More Than Meals Co. is a brick-and-mortar food store located in Pasig City and was established years before the pandemic even began.

Owner Jojo Abalos saw a market for affordable home-cooked meals in his condominium complex as well as for a small grocery store area for everyday necessities.

Describing it as, “a hybrid of a canteen and a minigrocery serving condominium residents and nearby small-office employees,” Abalos was able to build a customer base at the start of his business as More Than Meals was the first in their area that offered quality meals along with grocery store items.

Even with the competition rising in the years after he started his business, More Than Meals remained steady and maintained the customers that continued to patronize them. Abalos laments that for over six years, More than Meals had gained the trust of the community for their daily meals, snacks and grocery essentials but that all took a dark turn when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the business environment changed. With lockdown restrictions encouraging people to stay at home, many restaurants were forced to close down for lack of customers. “Office workers are considerably less in number and are on a tighter budget, and residents have turned from customers into competitors whereby everyone is now a seller through social media,” he explains.

The challenge for Abalos came when he had to transition More Than Meals from being a physical store to an online one and trying to establish a presence there amid all the burgeoning food businesses.

“While good food is still the heart of More Than Meals, the new dynamics and service requirements of online customers should be seriously considered,” he says.

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Acknowledging that the new business environment is something he still has to navigate, Abalos still hopes for the COVID-19 situation to improve. Yet even with the situation improving, he knows that the pre-COVID days will never return and that the key point to focus on for his business is to adapt and overcome the new sets of challenges the “new normal” brings. —CONTRIBUTED


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