Filipino ingenuity meeting challenges ahead

When the Philippine government imposed an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon last March, all non-essential shops and businesses in Metro Manila were temporarily closed. These include food operations with dine-in services. With eateries only allowed takeaways and deliveries, restaurants such as the iconic Café Ysabel had to beef up its online and social media platforms quickly. Now the restaurant is relying on these platforms to inform customers of their new 'ECQ' offerings. These include the restaurant's house bread and dip, pasta sauces, steaks, and award-winning strawberry shortcake. 
Chef Gene Gonzalez
"Every week, we add a new item. Sales are coming in, but it feels like we are starting a new business. I guess it is like a reformatting of our food," Chef Gene Gonzalez, Café Ysabel's chef-owner told Tasty Asia
While the restaurant will continue to serve a number of the eatery's favourite dishes, the team's creative weekly blackboard menus and bespoke degustation dinners have now taken a back seat. Or at least until ECQ ends in Metro Manila. 

Resourcefulness and tenacity are essential
"With our sizeable rent and the charges of utilities based on average consumption, it seems like we are in for a very steep climb," Gonzalez said. "The fact that we had to consume give away or condemn some of our fresh stocks have been part of the losses we incurred." What's more, the 25-year old restaurant had just moved to a new location and is still in the process of settling into its new home when ECQ happened.
"I have been receiving a lot of texts and messages from our regular clientele base (since 1982)" Gonzalez said. "Many yearn for us to open while we have barely just gotten used to our new system since we moved." But while diners can only enjoy Café Ysabel's offerings via takeaway or delivery, Gonzalez assures customers that the restaurant's favourites are still available. There will be with no shortcuts. Ordered dishes will be stored in food-grade packaging using sanitary procedures such as blast freezing to eliminate bacterial action. 
"We will try to get the food and Café Ysabel experience into the homes of our patrons," Gonzalez said. So for now, the restaurant is busy ramping up and fine-tuning its pickup and delivery services. They are also offering more family meal packages. Risky perishable dishes pre-ECQ will take a backseat for now. 
"We have to rely on Filipino ingenuity, resourcefulness, tenacity to maintain our clientele support and keep their interests and faith in our offerings," Gonzalez concluded.

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