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Navigating The New Normal In The Food Industry

Sean: We have a question from Pam, how should employees maintain safe distance from one another during food production and processing? This is good to know because even in restaurants, in cloud kitchens, we have no idea what’s going on inside. So how do you guys do it?

JC: So first, the capacity of the number of employees here was lessen. 50% capacity. And then of course, they are shuttled directly door to door. When they come here, they change uniforms. And then we have an isolation area where they change uniforms. When they arrived in the isolation area, they changed into the uniform. We do the UV sanitizing before they wear it. It may take a long time so they need to come in earlier, but it’s for their safety. At first, they didn’t like it, but of course they adapted to it. And then when they get here, of course they change their shoes before they enter the kitchen. And then they need to wear of course the standard, face masks, face shields, and then, the hairnet.

Honestly, it’s really about leadership in my opinion. We have so much visual management. We have posters everywhere telling them and reminding them of the safety protocols. I mean, they’re very basic. It’s not a mystery. The IATF guidelines on how to do it is very clear. It’s very well educated, but it’s the communication, the constant communication. So we have toolbox meetings and honestly, my dad and I, we go down, we do the toolbox meetings as well. Because they need to feel that it’s from top down. If the management believes in this very, in this thing, then the people will follow. And of course, us too, and we need to self-police each other.

Because just wearing the mask, if you have a mask and then the person who has COVID, doesn’t wear a mask, you get a 70% chance that you are safe. But if you are both wearing the mask, I think 90% chance that you will not get a COVID. So even if you do your part, I always tell this to my people, even if you do your part and you don’t call out your team member who doesn’t wear a mask, there’s a big chance that you will get it. Right? Because it’s really about accountability. It’s about responsibility.

And honestly, the reason why we’re so scared and we live in our commissary, so we’re here for it. And then when we get to the site, we’ve done so many different protocols during loading and unloading of our equipment. As a caterer, we bring the kitchen to the site and not the equipment. They line up on a V-shaped formation when they load and unload to make sure the distance is far from each other. There were a lot of things we needed to adapt. We have a buffet with acrylic shields. It protects our buffet waiters, and it protects the clients as well. And then the distance of the people in the buffet area, each table is four-seater now.  And then that gives our people more space, so they are not too close with the clients and then they’re also giving more space to the clients. There’s a lot. If I go through each there’s a lot of protocols. But they are really our priority. Their safety. Intimate but safe events.

Sean: I feel like if people hire Juan Carlo as their caterer, it’s super safe. Sometimes that peace of mind is so important. With all of the protocols you guys are doing. Just wow. I’m amazed, bro. Some companies I know would rather not do any of that and just shut down and wait it out. So many businesses went out just because they waited it out.The riskiest thing you can do is not take a risk and just sit down. And you’re a sitting duck so a lot of businesses closed down because they waited it out. And a really good on your part that you guys went ahead and did what you had to do. Pivoted.

Okay. So we discussed how your people are maintaining safe distance. You mentioned some of those safety protocols. Now a follow up question is from Pam, what are your strategies for adapting your business to the new normal? So you discussed the protocols. How about pivoting? You mentioned the Juan Carlo to-go. You mentioned the selling of the unused perishable goods earlier. What else did you do to pivot your business?

JC: We tried a lot of things. Some things failed. Some things worked out. We looked at the strengths of the company. We looked at the core things that we have. We have a linen department. My linen staff said, Sir, we will produce face masks and so on. And then my purchasing department said, we have a list of all the suppliers, supply chain management. We can get the best rates and we can sell and compete. It worked for a short time, because SM was still close. So us, even in Batangas area, we are the one delivering the groceries that time. Here, the face masks, when there are still no good face mask cloth, we sewed it right away even if it’s simple just so my people have work to do. It’s not really for the business. It’s not in line honestly with the branding of Juan Carlo but we did it just to keep our people busy.

But you know, what I learned, Sean, It’s really about sticking to your core. It’s really about focusing on, zoning in on what you do best. And that’s how we were able to help our people and help our business grow and go back and even thrive during the pandemic. Because we realize that life is still worth celebrating. That’s our campaign, that’s our motto. That’s what we were always thinking in our heads that we still want to have intimate gatherings. Like your dream wedding shouldn’t end. The dream wedding you’ve always been planning for two years does not have to be postponed or canceled, even those intimate occasions at home, with Juan Carlo to-go. 

But I realized that there are still a lot of clients. As in, I was shocked like their rates per plate is really huge. I don’t think I can mention it here but it’s really shocking. They would spend six digits or almost seven digits on a birthday. If we focused on our strengths, which were the high-end events, the class A, B to upper C market of the clients who go to us and remember us, it’s like we really thrive there more.

What we did was we innovated our food. We hired a new chef de cuisine. And we invested a lot of money in him. But we were not scared, we chose to double down and we’ve been really courageous. And we really focused on innovating our plated menu. Because right now it’s all intimate.  And buffet is not really that in now. People want plated. And the brides and grooms and the people who want to have their parties, it’s like these are the few select people in your life that you’re going to invite. So that means they want to go all in with the budget for these people. They wanted the food.

When you pay for plated service, yes, it’s about the fact that they’re being served like Kings and Queens. But what they pay for is really the artistry; how beautiful those plates look. The passion of the chef. His art translating it into a plate. What we did, we innovated, we had photo shoots of all these new plated menu and we had so many celebrity intimate gatherings during the pandemic – Idol Raffy Tulfo, Jane De Leon, it was her birthday, the one who was casted as Darna, AC Bonifacio. I’m missing some and we have upcoming celebrity intimate events.

There were a lot. I was shocked, bro. We really stuck to our guns and focused on high-end intimate events. It’s still the same. That’s our core business. It’s about how life is still worth celebrating in big events. I mean, not big in terms of, I mean high-end events. So that’s what. I learned. You may try other things and so, but at the end of the day, you will still go back to your core. And that’s when your customers, they already know you for that, you don’t need to go somewhere far.

Sean: I agree a hundred percent. Good to Great by Jim Collins also mentioned that. Right? Stimulate progress, but stick to your core.

Speaking of celebrities, question from Mitch, how do you keep it cool when you’re working with celebrities who are big names in the industry? Do you still get star struck or are you used to being around them?

JC: I still get really star struck. My dad, my father, he’s the one who’s still handling the big celebrity accounts, but I’m there on the day. I also audit the events and everything.

Honestly, I still get star struck around them. Like Chito Miranda he was a really big idol when I was in my grade school years. I grew up listening to his music. I know all the lyrics, so, Parokya ni Edgar. So when I saw that and I was like, wow, this is really Chito Miranda. So that’s it.

It’s normal but you it’s so funny, when you get to talk to them, they’re so down to earth, but they’re just like a normal person. Eventually, I got more comfortable with the different celebrities because they’re just people. They’re just like you and me. And then most of our celebrity clients, they’re so simple. They’re so down to earth. They are so chill. I remember Chito’s comment, it was so funny. He wrote a client testimonial, he used the Tagalog bad word, he said, too delicious. His testimonial was like that. He’s that down to earth. Like, you won’t even feel that they are celebrities.

Neri, the wife of Chito, we would talk on the phone for hours. They become my friends. We talk about business and different business opportunities because she’s also an entrepreneur. And some of them attended my wedding. So it’s really fun. They’re very, they become your friends after the wedding, because you are a part of the most special milestones in their life. So being friends is the next step. It’s really easy to be friends with them after.

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