FROM CONVENIENCE STORE FRIED CHICKEN TO SISIG ARANCINI AND JOLLIJEEP SUSHI, OUR IDEA OF QUICK AND ECONOMICAL FOOD IS EVOLVING
To sell cheap food, you have to comply with certain standards, like quality ingredients and air-conditioned spaces
There was a time when dining on a budget meant making your way to the closest fast food joint, carinderia, or mall food court. Quality was not a priority then: Dry burgers and oily ulam were given a pass on the premise that they are, after all, cheap. Creature comforts such as ambience and cool ventilation are low on the priority list with the understanding that people who choose to pay less should not expect such luxuries. However, young entrepreneurs know that adjustments need to be made to cater to a more demanding— entitled, some say— market.
Walking into Industrie Food Loft, or any of the many food parks/ halls popping up all over Manila, will illustrate how local diners these days are less forgiving and expect so much more for their hard- earned peso. Maemae Lachica, marketing and PR for Industrie, explains how three brothers and their significant others pooled together their respective specialties to come up with the well- curated space designed by Lauren Laudico. “My husband Kevin and his brothers ( Ken and Kirby) are in construction,” explains Lachica. “When they found out this space ( at City Golf Plaza, Ortigas) was available, they thought it would be a good idea to turn it into a food hall. But, with all our combined knowledge and resources, we were able to come up with something wonderful.” Angela Lachica is in charge of administration and completes the team.
The industrial design of the space is surprisingly warm, and its total look is cohesive despite the diversity of the food offered. The vibe is young and energetic without excluding certain demographics. The space is inviting and evocative of the vibrant and creative spirit behind it. This is nothing like your old- fashioned food court with harsh fluorescent lighting and vinyl table tops. “It’s also about the experience,” Lachica points out.
While ambience is vital in this new social media- driven world, good food remains the anchor of any food- related endeavor. This is what has people lining up outside Mini Stop branches during lunch break for orders of their Southern- style fried chicken meals. With its flavorful, crispy skin and juicy meat, plus gravy reminiscent of that of a popular Philippine- bred chain, the office crowd and night owls looking for a hangover fix swear by it.
Quality is also the driving force behind Jorge Mendez’s Ohayo Sushi. Mendez and his brother- in- law Mikko Cayetano are peppering Quezon City’s busy streets with their Jollijeep- like sushi bars. Their first spot along Tomas Morato was such a huge hit with the working- class pedestrians and late- night revelers that it sprouted in several other street corners in the area. Contrary to preconceived notions that sushi bars are fussy, Mendez admits that it’s actually a rather straightforward operation “with the right ingredients, equipment, and, of course, suppliers.” Mendez and Cayetano have taken it upon themselves to bring good Japanese food to the masses, so don’t expect the pre- packaged supermarket variety. What they offer is sashimi, maki, and nigiri prepared on the spot upon ordering. And, based on the lines late at night, people seem to appreciate the extra effort.
This is the kind of passion expected from vibrant youth, and it comes as no surprise that young entrepreneurs are behind this movement. Siblings Marco and Kyla Olives are the team behind Industrie’s Broken Oven, a spin- off of Marco’s home- based food order operation The Olive Treat. A permanent stall in the food loft has proven to be more challenging for obvious reasons, but the twentysomething Oliveses are driven by their love for food and cooking. “I think most of the stall owners in Industrie have other jobs or businesses,” Kyla observes. “This is really a passion project for us.”
This passion is also what drives them to set themselves apart from the thousands of food businesses opening every year. The product mix at Industrie ranges from Negrense breakfast fare to modern Japanese. A good example is Broken Oven’s menu, which is rooted in Marco’s popular roasts, especially Cebu- style lechon belly. They do rice meals differently here with their arancinis. With flavors like lechon truffle and chicken adobo balls encased in crispy chicken skin, they’re clever, handy, and, most especially, quite tasty. “Imagine if we start offering these in cinemas,” Kyla offers. “It is no longer impossible to have a full rice meal while watching a movie!”
The family that runs Industrie also sees their venture more as a creative outlet and a space where they can gather with family and friends. With the other stall owners, they have formed a rather tightknit community that views each other’s endeavors as a collective effort rather than unhealthy competition. “We even all play golf together now,” Lachica shares.
What makes food halls click? Affordable food is a given, and the promise of an abundance of choices in a comfortable setting is obviously a popular draw. For entrepreneurs like the Oliveses who are looking to bring their business to the next level and are testing the waters for expansion, their stall in Industrie provides them direct access to their customers. “The reaction we get here is immediate, unlike with food orders wherein you often don’t really get feedback about your product,” Kyla confesses. “In Industrie, the stall owners have tweaked their menus many times over since we opened. Kasi nga we get to react easily to the feedback of our customers. We have removed and added dishes, depending on what works and what doesn’t.” The low overhead allows for minimal commitment, leaving a comfortable room for these entrepreneurs to be creative and open to adjustments.
Filipinos have always been famously demanding in terms of food service, regardless of price. It’s safe to assume that this stems from our culture of hospitality where we like seeing our guests full and beyond satisfied. The same, therefore, is expected of the food service industry when dining out. While food parks are a way for business owners to eschew electricity expenses, it’s proving to be a hard sell. “For most stall owners and guests, air- conditioning is still a must,” Lachica shares. “The harsh weather is really a deal breaker here. People just really want to be comfortable while eating their food.” But, as Mendez stresses, nothing beats value- for- money food. “Anything cheap will sell,” he confesses, “but to be able to sell something cheap but with high quality takes it to a different level.”
Filipinos have always been famously demanding in terms of food service, regardless of price. It’s safe to assume that this stems from our culture of hospitality where we like seeing our guests full and beyond satisfied.
(This page, top) Marco and Kyla Olives of Broken Oven; Finishing touch on Ohayo’s salmon aburi. (Opposite page, clockwise) Broken Oven’s offerings including the popular arancinis; Maemae Lachica of Industrie Food Loft; Ohayo, located along the stretch...