A restaurant operator in Quezon City has teamed up with farmers to deliver healthy meals, fresh fruits, local vegetables and organic products to consumers.
"My parents are farmers and I know the feeling of having bountiful harvest and yet there are no buyers," says Rodrigo ‘Rad’ Pelayo, the managing director of Healthy Meals PH and H Cafe and Events Place.
Pelayo grew up in a farm in Candaba, Pampanga. A licensed physical therapist and lifestyle coach, he worked with nutritionists, chefs, doctors and entrepreneurs to open the first restaurant of Healthy Meals PH along Congressional Ave. in 2018 and H Cafe and Events Place at the corner of Scout Limbaga and Mo. Ignacia Street also in Quezon City the following year. The business was thriving until the coronavirus disease 2019 hit the country and paralyzed economic activities beginning March this year.
The supply chain came to a halt until the government realized that people would starve if it continued to block food from the provinces. Pelayo, 40, says that with the use of social media, he linked with farmers in Benguet and other areas to supply materials for his food delivery service and to directly sell fresh fruits, vegetables and organic meat to consumers who find it hard to go to public markets.
He says that as the enhanced community quarantine forced the closure of most restaurants, the nature of his business—food delivery and catering service—allowed him to keep at least a dozen employees on his payroll.
"This is really the business concept of Healthy Meals PH. It is a marketplace during the day, and restaurant-cafe at night before the Covid-19 pandemic hit us," says Pelayo.
His employees include two chefs, three packers and dispatchers, two on the social media team, 1 in charge of administrative concerns and four delivery riders.
He says the enhanced community quarantine which the government imposed to contain the virus had affected most restaurants. Many of them had to close shop while incurring hundreds of thousands in monthly rent.
"A lot of restaurant employees were displaced. I am not sure if other restaurants, particularly those offering buffet, would reopen," says Pelayo.
"It is a serious problem for the foodservice industry. We were able to keep our restaurant open because we have a delivery service. But the number of customers substantially decreased as many of them were also managing their expenses. Fortunately, with existing customers, there is a growing demand for fresh produce, bread and plant-based items for cooking," he says.
Pelayo says that amid the pandemic, it is important for people to consume nutritious and healthy food. He says Healthy Meals PH follows the right approach or TRA program which entails the proper, well-balanced and the right amount of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals that ensure the attainment of healthy well-being.
He says healthy meals should be complete, balanced and delicious and should include fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. "All our meals are made from natural ingredients," says Pelayo, who promotes the farm-to-table approach.
He says to complement the delivery of healthy meals, they are launching "Fresh Basket By Healthy Meals PH" to deliver fresh fruits, vegetables and organic produce from the farm to consumers. Customers can also go to H Cafe and Events Place to buy them.
"We provide low-priced fresh produce from Benguet and different provinces, organic products and meat. We do deliver, but we are also opening a walk-in garden and open-air store at Scout Limbaga," he says.
Among the vegetables available at H Cafe and Events Place are carrots, tomato, cabbage, celery, onion leek, wombok, sayote, potato, brocolli, B-beans, squash, gabi, garlic, onion, ginger, eggplant, camote, okra, string beans, ampalaya, kalamansi, red pepper and lemon.
It also sells fruits such as apple, orange, mango and dragon fruit as well as eggs, chicken, beef, fish, pork and other meat products. Also available are baked products, frozen plant-based food, soya-based products, ready-to-eat meals, specialty products, Stevia-based dessert, gourmet and organic ingredients.
"There is a strong demand for specialty products, plant based food, stevia-based dessert, native chicken and black pig that we offer in the market. Customers keep on ordering because they save on delivery cost and we offer a complete range of fresh food products," he says.
Pelayo says he is grateful that the business continues to operate despite the very challenging environment. "We need to offer something new every week at a lower price," he says.
Aside from helping farmers, Pelayo also transformed a part of his restaurant as a donation hub for frontliners. He also helped feed street children in the area, generated jobs for unemployed drivers and brought free food to hospital frontliners. He also encourages other people to provide healthy meals to doctors and nurses.
"They need a lot of things but one meal can help them see the day through. Donate P50 now, and a doctor fighting at the frontline will enjoy a healthy, nutritious meal. They're our heroes, and right now, here's one way we can stand with them," Pelayo says in a social media post.