Many people have turned to starting a small food business when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and why not—food is something you can technically earn money from without leaving your home. We’ve seen the rise of trends like ube-cheese pandesal and sushi bake, it’s still important to make enterprise sustainable longer than it can ride a wave.
During San Miguel Foods Culinary Center's Mortar and Pestle event, Chef Dave Cervantes of 22 Grams Patisserie and Chef John Joseph “JJ” Viel of Giuseppe Commissario shared how you can bring your dishes to a wider audience and keep loyal customers despite current limitations.
“The initial lockdown—I think it's safe to say we all felt it,” said Chef JJ. “We all felt the clinch, but thanks to social media, you know, between Instagram and Facebook, and I don't know for those who may not know I'm also on Tiktok… It kind of won the hearts of people, they're like ‘Let's shift.’”
As Tiktok is also a good resource for quick-and-easy recipes, Chef JJ leveraged on his interest in teaching by sharing his own, and quickly gathered a following. “Since we're in a pandemic, what's the next best thing, right? So I thought, one-minute cooking videos, very chop-chop, very quick, entertaining, digestible.”
Chef Dave, on the other hand, decided to shift from event-centric desserts to offering a more bite-sized menu. “So, before lockdown, I do wedding cakes, I do 12 kinds of cupcakes… And then I decided to rebrand it. Luckily we're in a digital age, where [everything is] accessible...so [you have] resources.” He noted that he learned a lot from YouTube and Pinterest, adding that he self-styles his food before he takes photos of them for his business. “It’s self-taught, and I’m just using natural lighting and mobile photography.”
Many existing restaurants are trying to pivot as the two have, but many are also slowly emerging precisely because of the pandemic, and while it may be intimidating to start a home enterprise these days considering that there’s a great deal of competition, Chef Dave noted that it’s actually one of the best times to do so.
“Don't be afraid to seek help. And don't be afraid to start, especially right now. Alam naman natin na that there’s uncertainty, but if you're not going to start, then it won't happen,” he says. “Just make sure you know when you’re starting, you’re focused on their product, and you adapt to the market.”
Chef JJ added that it’s also important not to get disheartened when things don’t immediately fly. “I'll tell you right now—there's a huge possibility that not many people will really bother to try your product. So don't get discouraged keep pushing keep promoting,” he advised, adding that one must also be very strict with finances.
“Be sure to check everything. Double check your food costs, make sure that you’re making a profit still from what you're selling, but at the same time… One thing I've noticed, obviously everyone's a bit on a budget, so you want to find a good balance between making a good profit and still catering to those who would still want to spend for your product, because the problem with other online sellers in my humble opinion, is [they tend] to be too expensive. So now, right off the bat, your customers would be like ‘Ay ang mahal nito, huwag na lang. Dito na lang tayo sa isang online seller na ‘to.’”
The most important thing to remember, however, is that in the end, these are unprecedented times, and that as a food entrepreneur, you also have to take care of yourself and focus on your end goal.
“Have mental fortitude, said Chef Dave. “It's very important. Right now, important kasi na mag-survive tayo physically and mentally. We have to focus on what we do, and when we’re focused, eventually, we’ll be able to create an efficient and effective procedure, para masimulan ‘yong business natin.”
Starting your home food business? San Miguel Foods offers high-quality ingredients you can grow your enterprise with—but if you’re yet to find your signature dish, try one of their many recipes on Instagram.com/homefoodieph.