COVID-19 has brought about changes in the entire food sector — at a faster pace and on a larger scale than anyone ever anticipated, and many have been left in unpredictable and difficult situations.
As validated by our experience in Goldilocks, however, the main message I would like to impart to my fellow Filipinos is this: hang in there. We will overcome, we will stabilize — and yes, our businesses can still grow.
“ In a matter of one day, we literally went from hundreds of operational stores in the NCR to zero. ”
When the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was declared last March 16, we were forced to shut down all our plants and stores in the entire Luzon area.
In a matter of one day, we literally went from hundreds of operational stores in the NCR to zero. Can you imagine the emotional effect this had on our employees and customers?
Nevertheless, amid — or especially during — these challenging times, we remained committed to provide the best to our customers and communities. We also pledged to support our heroic frontliners, regardless of how much our normal business was hampered; this was non-negotiable for us. Accordingly, we ensured a steady donation of food to various hospitals and LGUs as our small gesture of appreciation for their selfless efforts.
As the days passed, our business was classified as an essential need, and we began to slowly undertake limited operations. Even though the majority of our stores in Luzon (and many in Visayas and Mindanao) were still closed at the time, a few were reopened, and we took concurrent steps to strengthen our delivery capacity by amplifying our social media visibility, improving our online delivery infrastructure, and establishing partnerships with delivery aggregators.
On the corporate front, one of the first things we did was to convene an emergency response team in order to focus on two priorities: 1. The health of our customers, employees, and partners; and 2. To ensure business continuity.
For the first objective, we devised an ideal rotational shift schedule for employees who were not high-risk candidates for COVID-19. We provided (and continue to provide) shuttle services, extra meals, and additional allowances for our workers, and even implemented a bike-to-work program with the corresponding assistance.
Constant communication with our employees has not only helped alleviate their qualms and answer their questions but has proven to be therapeutic. Through our message groups and regular townhall meetings, the management and staff have found a venue to share their experiences, offer suggestions, and provide reassurance to their coworkers.
Needless to say, although safety and cleanliness are ingrained in our company’s DNA, we intensified our systems and procedures even further. From wearable protection to disinfection areas, plastic barriers and shields — we spared no expense and reviewed every detail to ensure a safe environment for everyone. An integral part of this is regular testing for our employees, and we have fully developed contingency plans for practically every possible COVID-19 scenario.
Our business continuity plan, on the other hand, revolved around five key areas. Due to the substantial reduction in consumer activity, we first needed to restrategize and refocus. It was crucial for us to carefully analyze how we could operate and thrive under these new conditions. Next, we needed to find a way to safely reopen our plants and stores during the ECQ. With our limited functions, it was equally imperative that we rationalized products and optimized operations, with the end-goal of eventually relaunching more products when things settled down.
Through the concerted efforts of our management team, employees, and partners, I am proud to say that we successfully hurdled through a period of adversity. We were proactive in evaluating a very dynamic situation and took the necessary steps to put our plans in motion. Thankfully, these measures resulted in favorable outcomes.
A little over two months after the region-wide lockdown, we were back to approximately 88 percent of our normal store operations, with our product categories steadily increasing in number.
The new normal also brought in some new favorites: our Ensaymada Hugs has proven to be a big hit for those who want to send a virtual hug to their loved ones, at a time when real hugs are being discouraged. Our ready-to-eat food selections and heat-and-eat bundles became perfect quarantine meals. We also enhanced our greeting cakes and put a delicious filling in them as an extra treat for our customers.
As a result, our actual performance in the past few months has actually exceeded the initial forecasts of our emergency response team. Because of this, I am quite confident that we will meet — if not exceed — the revised targets we originally estimated for the rest of the year, especially considering that the majority of the country is now under a more relaxed general community quarantine.
My foremost takeaway from this entire experience is something I hope will inspire others in the food industry. Filipinos have always been about celebrations, and we all continue to share the need to celebrate big and small milestones, even if they are now a lot simpler and smaller.
“ Filipinos have always been about celebrations, and we all continue to share the need to celebrate big and small milestones, even if they are now a lot simpler and smaller. ”
This is precisely why, even when our operations were severely hampered, our Goldilocks spirit continued to burn bright. Instead of feeling buried by fear and uncertainty, we realized that the turmoil being piled upon us was not meant to bury, but to plant us in a way that would allow us to grow, prosper, and perhaps encourage others.
Our businesses are still being tested, and challenges still lie ahead. Even so, we must rise up to the challenge.
We must soldier on because there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We will overcome it. I believe that one day we will get through this. And when all this is behind us, our celebrations will be more meaningful and filled with more love.
Edited by Tanya T. Lara