How the COVID 19 Pandemic Changed the Food Industry in the Philippines
The food industry in the Philippines is very unique and sensational may it be from the street foods found in the roads of Padre Noval Street in Manila to the fine-dining restaurants of Bonifacio Global City. However, as the COVID 19 pandemic struck the country hard, it became a catalyst for change to the beloved food industry in the Philippines.
Food security became a huge problem for both employees of the food service industry and the ones that produce them locally, since most people cannot go to work.
A Glance Into the Food Industry Before the Pandemic
Way back before the COVID 19 pandemic created the supposed “new normal,” the food industry in the Philippines can be considered as a really good way to start a business since Filipinos love food. Eating out every weekend or on special occasions is a tradition to the modern Filipino culture since it is a time where they can bond together, laugh, tell stories, and basically just have fun.
Before the pandemic hit the Philippines, street foods were an integral part of every Filipino’s lives. People of all ages love eating taho, the soy and sugar merienda or breakfast treat; students share their moments after school over kwek-kwek, kikiam, and fish balls; late night workers huddle over a tricycle cart selling pares-mami, and the typical evening cravings for balut. It is safe to say that most, if not all, have memories of these food experiences—but things changed during the pandemic.
The then fun times to bond with your family became a serious lockdown and a health hazard. Restaurants closed due to the onslaught of the COVID 19 pandemic. Some did their best to create something new for their customers just so they would not need to close their restaurants, but the whole pandemic situation just kept getting worse. The streets were empty and no street food vendor can be seen because nobody is allowed to go out during lockdown.
The Impact of Pandemic on the Food Industry
The damage to the Philippine food industry caused by this pandemic is immense. The Department of Trade and Industries (DTI) reported that 26% of businesses were forced to close their doors due to reasons such as bankruptcy, low number of customers, lack of means, and the likes. The government said that bars had no reason to open their shops unless they sold food so they were forced to sell food and deliver them just to survive the pandemic.
2020 recorded the largest decline of sales of cafes and bars in the Philippines, dropping to only 1 Billion USD which pales in comparison to the combined sales back in 2019, which totaled up to 2.55 Billion USD. This is one of the primary examples on how the Philippines was greatly affected by the COVID 19 pandemic.
This is mainly caused by three things:
- Lack of mandated rules regarding food businesses early on in the pandemic
- People were very anxious of the virus
- The store owners do not know how to deal with the pandemic
The pandemic really had a great impact on the food industry in the Philippines, mainly because this sort of decline or event is very rare.
What did the Filipinos do to get by this Adversity?
During that time, the food industry really suffered due to the fact that less people are going out to purchase from them. But, this became a tool for another field to shine—the food delivery service.
- Food delivery services became the bridge between the customers and the food vendors
- Food delivery riders were allowed to work, hence, they can deliver food to your doorstep
- Shops were already integrating food delivery service through these riders way back before pandemic
- Filipinos doubled down on Food Delivery Apps
- Kitchen Hero
- Lalamove, and many others
Because of that, the food industry was given a new way to survive during the pandemic. There was a time when a lot of small restaurants did not even offer these services, but due to the COVID 19 pandemic, they were forced to offer these services to accommodate the growing needs of their customers. Right now, even a small lugawan or pares-mami stall offers food delivery services .
- Filipino Fast Food Restaurants tend to sell their raw, ready-to-cook, signature foods
The following restaurants stood out by selling their ready-to-cook food in the markets during the pandemic:
They followed the fad because the locked-down Filipinos back then craved their food so much that they would swarm shops or online sellers that sell them. It became the trend for quite a while, but the food delivery service is still ahead in providing the Filipinos a solution for their cravings.
How did the People Get Back on Their Feet?
Fortunately, Filipinos are known to be resilient and eventually found ways to counter the untoward effects of the pandemic and its lockdowns. First of all, the Filipinos went back to basics—home cooking.
Although shopping for ingredients was still difficult since they mostly relied on delivery services, they still managed to keep the foodie tradition alive by doing cooking at home.
Some of these home cooks even sold their food since it was “that good” and people loved it. This brought some profit for the home cooks and somehow kept some local food industries afloat. In addition to this, restaurants, cafes, bars, and even local carinderias managed to make their mark in the digital world by creating Facebook pages and food delivery service accounts.
For example, these food places were only purely physical stores but due to the pandemic, they had to establish themselves digitally, too.
- Hola PH
- Panene’s Lugawan and Lechon
- Dada’s Lechon Manok
- Eight-Eight Milk Tea
These food places have something in common: they are owned by private individuals, not corporations. Due to digitalization, they managed to keep up with their competitors and were able to get back up on their feet during the pandemic.
For some, digitalization is just a part of their day-to-day business, but to a lot of people, it’s an upgrade for them to keep their business up and running, whether it be in the middle of a pandemic or on a normal business day.
What is Happening in the Food Industry Right Now?
Currently, the Philippine food industry is recovering quite well since the restrictions are now looser and everything is more lenient.
According to Market Research, the Philippines is currently regaining the overall sales of restaurants and cafes and is now at 2 Billion USD again with a growth rate of 7-8%. Restaurants are now going back to their usual business operations, but with some restrictions due to the “new normal” provisions. Food businesses are still required to:
- Inform customers of the COVID protocols
- Conduct temperature checks
- Provide alcohol dispensers
- Implement social distancing markers, and the like
Today, more and more food businesses are being established. If you have certain cravings, you might want to check Hola’s Best Seller.
The Philippines suffered a great setback during the height of the COVID 19 pandemic. Businesses closed and food security became a real threat, but Filipinos managed to get back up and fight for their businesses by modernizing and upgrading digitally. Some people also tried their best to keep the traditions alive by updating their knowledge of culture and tradition to modern means, such as vlogging their own home cooking and sometimes even selling it so people will not forget the taste of home cooked meals.
Now, the Philippines is recovering and is currently bouncing back with momentum, slowly returning to how the food industry in the Philippines used to be. So much so that even smaller food businesses such as family owned milk tea stands or budget friendly lugawans can now be searched through apps like Kitchen Hero, Grab Food, Food Panda, and more.
Read more at Hola.