“It was simple. Realizing I needed a haircut, a friend said I should just shave it off,” says Chris Evans, country head of Zomato Philippines, during an online interview with ANCX. We were discussing the impetus behind the Shave Against Hunger initiative, a collaborative fundraising program by Zomato Philippines and Rise Against Hunger Philippines (RAHP).
RAHP is the local affiliate office of Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief organization that distributes food and aid to vulnerable areas in the globe. RAHP has already established its presence in Metro Manila, Laguna, Isabela, Cebu, Iloilo, Negros, Misamis Oriental, and Davao.
To add a bit of levity (we need it now more than ever), Evans added an extra challenge to Zomato Philippines’ fundraising activity. The country head pledged to shave his head once the company receives 1 million pesos of donations. He also nominated a number of Zomato Philippines employees to create their own videos to pledge to the cause, and encourage their friends and family to support the fundraiser.
“Anything that gives us the opportunity to smile and laugh helps at any time, but particularly during such times as these. Infusing fun and humor into a cause like this helps with individualizing the cause by getting certain people to just try to raise a small amount and spread awareness within their network.” Evans adds, “It really humanizes the cause rather than thinking it is too big a problem to fix or ‘my PHP 5,000 won’t make a difference.’”
To date, Shave Against Hunger has raised PHP 450,000 in cash and kind. Pledges of support are derived from Zomato partner restaurants and their active foodie community, as well as ordinary good Samaritans in the country. The reception regarding the sharing challenge has already been well received, according to Evans. “That’s something we didn’t expect to happen, so that’s awesome. Foodies have embraced the Feeding Philippines initiative by helping spread awareness and we had many restaurants and corporate partners donate meals and supplies direct to Rise.”
The move towards contactless dining
During the interview, we also asked Evans how Zomato is coping amidst the lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges, Evans is still hopeful. “We know it’s going to take quite some time for the industry to return to levels reminiscent of pre-COVID, however, as humans, our craving for social interaction and for great food will be as strong as ever.”
Evans outlined how Zomato, one of the largest online food aggregators in the world, planned to move forward, evolve, and cope after the initial onslaught of COVID-19 dissipates, especially given the company’s focus on the dining experience.
“Just before the pandemic, Zomato began to focus completely on the dine-out market for restaurants. There were already many players in the delivery space so we felt that this was where Zomato could add the most value to restaurants in the Philippines. It unfortunately meant that we were hit very hard, with restaurants not being able to open for dine-in services.”
To compete, Evans described its new initiative, Contactless Dining as the wave of the future after the COVID-19 pandemic. This will entail a new set of rules for restaurants that will open after the lockdown to minimize customer contact with anything that someone else might have touched. This mean contactless menus (QR code scanned menus, for example), contactless ordering through an app, and contactless payments for restaurants. These rules will eliminate the need for a physical menu and bill books, two items that are most handled in a restaurant setting.
"We are about to launch Contactless Dining which we believe will be a huge part in helping the industry bounce back by providing a platform that allows a restaurant to provide a safe and efficient dining experience to guests once they can welcome them back inside their venues,” says Evans.
He also noted that, in order to survive the post-pandemic world, restaurants will need to establish a more extensive hygiene and safety protocol: frequent cleaning and disinfection, frequent hand sanitation for guests and staff, arranging tables at least one meter apart, and frequent temperature checks for the restaurant staff.
After the lockdown, it will indeed be a challenge for diners to return to their favorite restaurants. But despite the popularity of food delivery services now, there is still a big difference in dining out with family and friends. As noted by Evans, we are social beings and we need that physical interaction with our friends and loved ones. The challenge for the restaurants is to figure out how to adapt and evolve in this upcoming new normal.
Visit Zomato.com for information about the Feeding Philippines campaign and details on how to donate.