Meal times are integral to the Filipino way of life. As good food fills the stomach, stories and laughs fill the happiness tank of everyone in the dining table. Because of its unifying effect, it’s no wonder that dinner out and food trips are bestsellers when it comes to bonding activities.
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Given the insatiable appetite of Filipinos to try what’s new, food parks became the perfect place to grab a quick bite and spend quality time with friends or family. That’s why when these establishments opened their gates, the people came in droves to try what they have to offer. Aside from the wide selection of tasty treats, the bright lights and the colorful theme make it the place to be. Bands played as customers wolf down their orders to keep the energy high.
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But after the rousing reception, it seems like food parks are struggling nowadays. I’ve seen two of these in Cainta close in a month while another one in Pasig is struggling to even open after it was constructed. One popular food park in Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City has also ceased to operate. Another popular food park in Marikina followed the same fate. As for the others who are still in business, the usual fanfare is gone. Isn’t it that food is an integral part of our rich culture? Then why are places where food is aplenty shutting down? Here’s why:
1) You can splurge once in a while – Food parks operate every day, which means that they bank on people to swing by on a daily basis to grab a bite. However, given the traffic in the metropolis as well as thrift spending, it is impossible to have a packed house on a weekday. Even if they get a famous band to play, it still is no guarantee of a packed house.
2) Food choices can be expensive – Yes, they do offer delicious choices. However, the price point can be a bit higher than what you can buy at malls. It is understandable for most of the owners rely on one establishment to make a profit unlike fast food chains that have multiple outlets and loyal customers. Thus, the higher pricing. It would be challenging to persuade Filipinos to purchase something expensive if they can get it for less. Plus, we have this tendency to just cook in our kitchens what we have tasted the other day.
3) One too many – When one food park flourished, another group of owners will decide to open theirs. With the market becoming saturated, food choices tend to be repetitive from one place to another. The originality that these places promote is wasted. Therefore, when a new food park tries to open, the public won’t care because they are one and the same.
4) Geared for the younger generation – It’s not that millennials do not have money. Rather, it’s their capacity to influence thinking that comes into play. Because they are so adept in using social media, they can post a video to review whether a food park is good or not. Sometimes, they just visit to snap as many photos as they can in order to share online. In a matter of seconds, they can leave a review that this restaurant is the bomb or a bust. Or, they can just chat with their friends and warn them not to go there if their experience did not turn out well. While experience is still the best path to a verdict, one negative comment can prevent people from coming.
5) Nothing beats relaxed dining – When food parks are packed, noise (and maybe cigarette smoke) fills the air. It may look like a glorified canteen with cramped seating except for the band and the alcoholic beverages. This environment might not be attractive for some for they prefer a more peaceful ambiance. That’s why known spots for great food like Maginhawa in Quezon City, Kapitolyo in Pasig, and Lilac in Marikina can still attract those who want a chill atmosphere.
Bottom line, the food business is competitive to begin with. So for budding entrepreneurs, you can’t just rely on the Filipino’s love for food to open shop. If there’s anything that these food parks taught us, it’s that a great menu can only get you so far especially in a country where culinary talent is plenty. You have to find a deeper reason why customers must patronize you over and over again. If not, you will be thrown into anonymity just like spoiled food.
Lawrence Andrew Fernandez is a Digital Marketing professional that is passionate for sports, music, and travel. A journalism graduate from the University of the Philippines Diliman, he also contributes articles to Fox Sports Philippines. He is also a member of the CFC-Singles for Christ and a proud Cainta resident.