(SPOT.ph) Spanakopita. You might not have heard of it, but it's an unexpected hit in an Instagram-based Greek food delivery service, one that is thriving during months of lockdown. Not yet on the ranks of sushi bake and ube cheese pandesal, the spinach-filled pastry proves that Filipinos want an escape from the pandemic, at least through food.
Even after COVID-19 restrictions have largely eased, ordering in has become a way of life for Filipinos, creating a delivery sub-economy that's dominated by Grab and foodpanda. After a long day of on-site work and with depleted social batteries, some people just want to treat themselves to a nice meal at home.
Food delivery is a sweet escape
Filipinos eat sweet and orders for the entire household. Also, there's always time for snacks, according to data from Southeast Asian super app Grab.
Across the region, basket sizes grew 16% during the ECQ era of 2020 and Filipinos had this unshakeable love for milk tea, said Grab Food Philippines head EJ Dela Vega.
Dessert orders grew 45% and orders during merienda time grew 60% since the lockdown, Dela Vega said. Food fads of the quarantine also made it to Grab Food: sushi bake, cheese donuts, and ube pandesal, he said.
"Although mas madami ang mga nagbebenta ng mga savory or ulam frozen man or ready to eat, I think mas patok ang mga breads and pastries/desserts kasi mas mahirap po kasi ito gawin sa bahay compared sa ulam," said chef Sonny Mariano, who makes a cake out of chocolate chip cookies.
"Siguro sa stress na din sa mga nangyayari ngayon kailangan nila ng something sweet para marelieve kahit papaano," he said.
Filipinos are also ordering late into the night, pushing Grab Food to go 24 hours whenever restaurant operating hours and quarantine rules allow, Dela Vega said.
Food delivery is like travel
People order food that look good on their social media feeds and ignite an exchange of happy emojis. Take the colors on and textures on sushi bake trays. People also want to try something new, said Instagram store Greek to Go.
Before the lockdown, the spanakopita was a sleepy menu item and its owners thought the flavor could be too earthy for the Filipino taste that likes it sweet-spicy. Thanks to word of mouth, Greek to Go now takes orders of spanakopita daily alongside best-sellers like the souvlaki platter and shrimp saganaki. It's Santorini in a take-out box.
"Nag explore po lalo ang tao ngayon sa ibat-ibang klaseng pagkain," Greek to Go said. Imagine an American breakfast of pancakes and bacon, lunch of tantanmen ramen and dinner of watermelon and feta cheese salad -- that's three continents in a day.
Instagram food critic MasarapBa orders to bring back childhood memories. Tropical Hut hamburgers reminds the reluctant infleuncer of his/her late father. It's their favorite meal during bonding time.
"Ako napansin ko, hinahanap ko yung classics kasi namimiss ko yung emotional connection ko with food and people I shared them with," MasarapBa said. "It makes me feel less lonely lalo na if literal na alone ka."
Food delivery needs to evolve
Motorcycle deliveries have not been kind to cakes, especially the pretty ones, where the slightest bump on the road would leave more icing on the box than on the cake itself. Same for noodle soups that takes some effort to unpack and assemble. Have you tried putting together a delivery taco?
BDO Unibank chief Investment Startegist Jonathan Ravelas, who helped reportr decode the economics of the two-piece chicken, said proper packaging will help businesses adapt to the new normal that relies heavily on deliveries. Tempura and fried chicken, for example, must be packaged in such a way that it's crisp, not limp, when the customer digs in.
Kix Dinio sells authentic Kapampangan suman and tamales on Instagram and to preserve quality, order cut offs are set on Wednesdays for deliveries on Saturday. "Hindi rin po madaling itransport yung products namin kasi temperature sensitive. We have to make sure na may quality talaga ung tamales, kahit dosena or isang piraso order mo, parehas ung effort namin jan."
Tamales is both sweet and savory, meat and sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf, the portable kanin at ulam (rice and viand) combo. This is a guaranteed hit, especially for busy heads of household, Dinio said. For locked-down Kapampangans, its a taste of home.
"Then comes cravings once in awhile... Naging exciting ung food hunt, from searching for sellers, to ordering and then waiting for your items to be delivered. May satisfaction sa experience (The food hunt is exciting, to ordering then waiting for your items to be delivered. There's a satisfaction in the experience," Dinio said.