MANILA -- Restaurateur Edward Bugia gave his chef's toque a rest as he prepared to restart his food business, packing meals in the most hygienic way possible to soothe customers' worries over the coronavirus.
Like many small businesses shuttered for over 2 months by one of the world's longest lockdowns, Bugia is on survival mode and Metro Manila's shift on Monday to a general community quarantine or GCQ affords him a restart, albeit with new rules.
"Right now, kahit mabigat sa bulsa namin, we've all been looking into investing on cleanliness, how to kill bacteria, virus, the germs. Naging scientist kami bigla," Bugia told ABS-CBN News.
(Right now, even at additional cost, we've all been looking into investing on cleanliness, how to kill bacteria, virus, the germs. Suddenly, we're scientists.)
"We have to be prepared but we can't be optimistic na okay na normal na ulit (okay, things are normal again) because it's not normal," he said.
Japanese cream puff chain Beard Papa resumed deliveries and orders in sealed boxes with a "safety certification" stating that those who prepared it wore personal protective equipment.
"It's very irresponsible for any business now to think that I can still make a profit. Right now, everyone is on survival mode," Bugia said.
"We will thrive, we believe we will thrive in a way pero hindi na capitalist sense na dahil may pera ako, magtatayo pa ako ng limang branch (but not in a capitalist sense that if I have money I will open new branches). We have to be on survival mode," he added.
Lifting stringent measures does not mean people will dine in their restaurants, Bugia said, adding he had been operating "at a loss" for the past few months. Operators should not be complacent, he said.
Without a vaccine, Bugia, who operates and manages several restaurant brands under Pino Group of Concepts and MFT Group of Companies, said businesses could go back to pre-COVID levels by early next year.
Bugia believes the food industry is one of the most equipped to deal with the pandemic.
"Since day 1, we've been trained to be hygienic, to be clean since there is food. We have an extra responsibility now," he added.