Navigating the business through the pandemic

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    The pandemic’s effects on businesses cannot be overstated. For those however who are able to pivot quickly and identify possible market avenues, more than just surviving, a business can continue to grow and expand.

    The spread of COVID-19 last year heralded a massive change in consumer habits and lifestyle. One of the industries that were hit the hardest by this disruption had been restaurants.

    For GJ Jimenez, president ng Banapple Pies and Cheesecakes, the swift lockdown implemented by the national government raised problems that had to be resolved swiftly.

    “We had to focus on retrieval and transfer of perishable items from 25 stores back to the commissary and setting up storage for these and we had to do this within 24 hours. Adding to the problem was the transport restrictions which disrupted, if not halted, the movement of people, goods and materials,” he said.

    The economy has gradually opened but the change in lifestyle and spending habits of Filipinos meant that businesses had to change their way of operations and sales. For Banapple, this meant leaning heavily on social media and the internet to bring in customers.

    “Pre-lockdown, we had 25 operating stores heavy on dine-in. After the lockdown started, we have had to close all but 2 operating stores – with no dine in and very limited traffic.

    People went online so we streamlined the processes of our website for taking orders and payments through banapplekitchen.com/shop. Our Express Delivery service was also quickly conceptualized and established to complete the online-to-home experience,” Jimenez shared.

    Banapple also pushed for the use of digital payment systems such as GCash. The website was also updated to allow payments via digital wallets, Visa, and Mastercard.

    The shift to online operations included sales, management and office processes. Subsidies and other forms of assistance were also deployed to help their employees affected by the pandemic. “We had more online meetings and moved email correspondence to Microsoft Teams for real-time collaboration,” he said

    “Special purpose financial assistance was also provided across the board. We also provided shuttle services from selected areas to the workplace, the rationalization of reduced work week, and set-up of computers at home for remote work,” Jimenez added.

    Aside from in-house employees, Banapple also extended assistance to its franchisees who were affected by the pandemic. Communication between the company and its franchisees increased in scope and frequency in order to keep each other updated of developments.

    The company also suspended collection on some fees to those whose stores with subpar performance due to the lockdown.

    As the lockdown ease up and vaccine is available Banapple is expecting costumers to start dining in again.“We are seeing customers physically return to dine in but more consumers are discovering the convenience of transacting online and reliably receiving their orders,” Jimenez opined.

    To keep up with the changes in the market, Banapple has deployed an in-Messenger order fulfillment system on Facebook and set up an in-house delivery system. Store designs and processes have also been modified to accommodate increasing off-site consumption. The company has also identified more digital touch points and platforms where it can meaningfully connect and transact with its customers.

    Moving forward, the company is currently developing ready-to-heat and ready-to-cook items, sold in online platforms such as naber.ph and convenience stores like Café Bonjour in Total gasoline stations.

    The pandemic’s effects on businesses cannot be overstated.For those however who are able to pivot quickly and identify possible market avenues, more than just surviving, a business can continue to grow and expand.