Buffet hacks show Filipinos' appetite for restaurant meals

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 30 2017 09:25 AM | Updated as of Oct 31 2017 04:18 PM

MANILA - Business Developer Donna Leyran eats out thrice a week without paying full price, a dining hack made possible by a mobile app that feeds off Filipinos' love for food and a good bargain.

Restaurant reservation app Eatigo operates on the same principle as budget airlines. A luxury buffet can go for a 50-percent discount at 2 p.m., in the same way a red eye flight is cheaper than the ones that take off on peak hours.

"Filipinos are huge fans of eating out in restaurants but not all are willing to pay premium for most of these places," Leyran told ABS-CBN News.

Increased demand for restaurant meals has been one of the manifestations of the robust Philippine economy, which grew 6.5 percent in the second quarter, the fastest clip in Asia next only to China.

Filipinos are also the world's most optimistic consumers, according to a second quarter Nielsen study and such confidence in their jobs and the economy allows Filipinos to spend more on indulgences.

Eatigo made profit in the Philippines after just 4 months, surprising management, said co-founder Michael Cluzel. The app is also available in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong kong and India.

"Philippines has been the fastest growing country that we've ever launched," Cluzel told ABS CBN News.

"We expected good numbers but we’re completely taken aback by how Filipinos are value-centered, how Filipinos are willing to get out of their way to get a good deal, they are willing to go the extra mile for discounts,” Cluzel said.

Eatigo now has 400 partner restaurants and almost half a million users, according to country marketing manager Gela Go.

Food companies are cashing in on the consumption boom. Pizza restaurant operator Shakey's sizzled in its stock exchange debut last December, raising nearly P4 billion. Shares of the company closed at P13.10 last Friday from its IPO price of P11.26.

Jollibee, the country's largest fast food operator has a 6-percent one-year return on its stock. It recently opened its 1,000th store and is reportedly preparing a bid for British sandwich chain Pret A Manger.

For freelance photographer Patrick Unson, using restaurant reservation apps like Eatigo allows him to get a restaurant quality meal at fast food price.

“It has done a fine job in making a huge number of restaurants more affordable," he told ABS-CBN News.

Cluzel said some partner restaurants reported up to 30 percent increase in customer traffic due to Eatigo while some attribute up to half of bookings to the app.

One of the more popular restaurants in the app, Pepperoni Pizzeria, gets 30 percent of reservations through the app on weekends and up to 10 percent on weekdays, said manager Ciara Bernabe.

The sit-down restaurant market has room to grow, operating at just 35 percent of capacity, Cluzel said, adding Eatigo might expand to Davao and Cebu.

“The market is so big and inefficient, let's try to help the merchant do a better job at filling their tables," he said.