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Food trends offer opportunities in the Philippines

21 January 2017

Lutong ulam on display a Sunday market.
Dining out in the Philippines will never be the same with the emergence of food stalls that have sprouted all over the country, offering various dishes and dining options, from al fresco dining to just eating by the food cart.

Food Courts

Go to any mall and you will see the food stalls that serve snacks from pastries and pies, donuts, dim sums, to popular street food such as fish balls, broiled chicken innards and kwek-kwek - the boiled quail eggs dipped in heavy orange colored batter and deep fried to a crispy outer crust.

Most offer food eaten on the spot or for takeout, but a few have small chairs and tables for customers who want more time to savor what’s on offer. The multitude of food stalls suggest that the franchising business is alive and well in the Philippines. This could just be as well, especially for newbie investors who do not much have much capital to spare.

Acquiring a food franchise is far easier than setting up a restaurant, which entails the more complicated process of acquiring a license under an approved brand name from the Department of Trade and Industry. There is also the matter of finding a suitable location, and a theme or concept that would hit it off with discerning customers. More importantly, the dishes to be served must be unique in taste, concept and appearance, and should allow the restaurant to acquire its own signature and establish a loyal clientele.

A few facts to consider:

1. Location and Ambiance: The most important factor to consider in setting up a restaurant. Competition is getting tight in the food business, particularly in Metro Manila, so one needs to know where diners would likely go, for the food and to be seen. In Quezon City, for example, Maginhawa St is fast catching up with the older food hubs on Tomas Morato Ave, Eastwood and several other places as the place to be for the young and hip crowd.

2. Name and branding: The name of the restaurant as approved by DTI should be unique as it will establish the owner’s identity and the quality of its food. Whatever name is chosen by the owner, whether it is for a small carinderia or a fine dining restaurant, a lot will still depend on what it has to offer, from the general look of the restaurant, the quality of food and the kind of service that comes with the package.

3. Consistency and Quality: Food served in the restaurant should be unique and should leave its own mark in the customer’s palate. Menus should be carefully planned, and there should be consistency in the taste and the quality of food. Ambience and hygiene are also of utmost importance, along with good customer service and an effective advertising strategy.

Food Trucks
Binalot food truck, which is now open to franchising.

Another trend that is gaining more and more popularity is the food park and food truck park concept. A food park consists of different stalls serving different varieties of food from burgers to popular street food, Japanese takoyakis and other finger foods. Also available are specialty drinks and coffee, milkshakes and buckets of beer. These food parks are the new food hubs frequented by the so called millennials.

These establishments are open from late afternoon to the wee hours of the night. In Marikina alone, there are more than 10 food parks and more are coming up with new and unique concepts of their own.

One of the main attractions of these food parks are the spacious parking areas that are provided for free to customers. The food varies according to the concept of the food park.

One particular food park in Marikina that has a unique concept is the Carnival Food Park, considered as one of the biggest in food trends to hit Metro Manila. The atmosphere inside the said food park is the jolly ambiance of a real carnival boasting a 1,600+ square meters of more than 26 different concept food stalls.

Staying true to its name, the Carnival Food Park has a carnival theme from its entrance to the decors inside. Each food stall has its own theme. More and more of these food parks have been sprouting around Metro Manila.

In the next issue, I will feature more food parks and new food trends, along with new recipes and places to go to for a memorable dining experience..

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