I find myself writing this not only because Spicebird in Manila just marked its first month in operation, but also because I’ve been getting bothered seeing social media posts that say restaurants are now fine, and even some that imply restaurants are taking advantage of the pandemic to squeeze money out of customers. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re are a long way from being out of the woods.
In the US, one estimate places closures of independent restaurants to be at 85%. We don’t have clear statistics locally but, from what we’ve been seeing, it’s still an uphill battle. Even if restaurants have transitioned to doing delivery, there are heavy costs in doing so from app commissions to additional packaging to more expensive ingredients. To add to that, there’s now increased competition from home-based businesses.
But I know that there are people who sincerely want to help restaurants. So to all of you who care about our survival, I present to you some ways you can help.
Order Direct and Skip The Apps
Delivery apps typically get a whopping 25-30% share of your bill, leaving not much else for restaurants to earn from. Every peso counts especially during this time so if you’d like to help, call the restaurant and order direct. Book your own rider or if the restaurant offers it, they can do it for you. It just takes a smidge more effort and a bit of human interaction on your part but it will be a huge deal to the restaurant.
“BuT yOU dOnT hAVe tO SIgN uP WItH aN aPP” I see some people say. While that is true, restaurants are caught between a rock and a hard place. From what I’ve been hearing, many restaurants are running at only 10% of their original sales, making them desperate for any influx of cash.
Oh, and another thing: because of the exorbitant charges by the delivery apps, many restaurants are increasing their prices on those platforms. So ordering direct can really be a win-win.
Be A Regular
Unfortunately, it’s not enough for your favorite restaurant to survive just because you ordered once the past couple of months. They need your constant patronage to do so. Of course, you won’t be able to buy from all restaurants — choose a couple that you want to make sure are able to stick around and support those as regularly as you can.
And becoming a regular has its perks: good restaurants remember their loyal customers and take extra good care of them in little ways.
Don’t Ask for What You Don’t Need
We’re looking at every opportunity to peso-pinch at the restaurant and every little bit helps. So if you don’t need the utensils or ketchup in your take away, tell the staff as you order. These little extras add up to a restaurant’s expenses and they probably just gather dust in your house if you don’t really need them. And a very big plus: you also help in terms of environmental sustainability.
Don’t Abuse Your Privileges
Unfortunately, in the midst of a raging pandemic, we still see some Senior Citizen and PWD card holders abuse their privileges. Some use their cards to buy food and drink for other people when the law is pretty clear about the discounts being for their own consumption only. Please stop doing this. We know everyone’s in a pinch but this practice just kills restaurants that are already having a difficult time surviving.
Tip, and Tip Well
The pandemic’s been especially hard on food service personnel, so please give a tip to the hard-working staff. When staff gets good tips, they go to work happier. And happy staff means restaurants are running at their best.
Get That Dessert and Drink
With restaurants operating at a fraction of their usual sales, every little addition counts. And with the number of customers coming in down, each transaction has to be higher for restaurants to have a chance of being in the black. So if you can afford it, do get that drink, the bigger size, or the dessert. And maybe even all of the above.
Operations during this pandemic have been fraught with difficulties at every level. The chicken tastes a little different? That’s because the cook wasn’t able to get to work from Cavite. Your favorite dish is out of stock? That’s because supplies from the province couldn’t get into the city easily. Your delivery that arrived was incorrect? That’s because it’s the first time the staff have had to deal with so many take away orders. All of the above are very real examples that I’ve encountered in various restaurants the past few months. So if things aren’t a 100% there, please be a little understanding and forgiving.
That’s not to say that though you should keep any misses in your experience to yourself. The great restaurants are those that are willing to listen to customers whenever problems arise so let them know directly. You don’t even need to post on social media about it.