Versatility is a trait one may gain as an airline cabin crew. Flight attendants are fully trained to also adapt to different situations and to respond to these in the most appropriate manner. The covid-19 crisis which has greatly affected the airline industry is one of them and these cabin crew responded by unleashing their enterprising selves, by becoming entrepreneurs and opening small businesses. One of them is Cebu Pacific flight steward Paolo Ruiz Rongavilla.
Paolo responded by putting up his own business named "GrabSilog" where they sell different kinds of famous Filipino Silog such as the likes of TapSilog, PorkSilog, pulutan like Sisig, Chicharon Bulaklak and Amoré Milktea, Fruitea, Frappe abd Milkshake.
"GrabSilog was built in a concept of food-on-the-go. I observed and realized that because of the pandemic and the new normal, the food retail industry has to bank on the technology and address the need for physical distancing through a stronger online presence and fast delivery. 'Grab' stands for easy-to-pick and 'Silog' represents quick Filipino food. We consulted a legal for the totality of the branding, name, concept and logo and that sealed the go for the GrabSilog.
"The process of product development did really focus on fast and easy. We thought of Filipino dish that can be prepared and transported quickly without compromising the taste of the food. Back-to-basic was the key during lockdown thus our menu offers basic meat, fried rice and egg with the combo of latest Filipino trend on drink which is the milktea," Paolo shared.
As a flight steward of Cebu Pacific, Paolo was able to apply all the skills, traits, and lessons he learned from the job into his business, particularly lessons on customer excellence. "When I was a flight attendant, I always think of excellence in customer experience - and this is for me the main key to become an entrepreneur and in GrabSilog."
While some may think that the job of a flight attendant is routinary and there is not much growth, this flying entrepreneur thinks otherwise. "A flight attendant must always think ahead of what the passengers might ask for and be ready anytime to give. Flight attendant no matter how bad the turbulence is must remain calm and prioritize the safety of the passengers. These are one of the few things I greatly consider everyday in the business, in GrabSilog we always think of what our customers might look for in the taste of our food, variety in our menu. We always look and offer for convenience of our customers whenever they are in our store. We are very observant and strict with the preparation of the food to ensure the safety of our customers. Customer experience is really the key," Paolo told us.
This enterprising flight steward saw a lot of opportunities during the recent lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. One was he needed an extra source of income. Second was the situation itself. As Cebu Pacific's commercial flights were cancelled temporarily last March to May, Paolo found more "free" time and decided to make this period more productive. "People are being pushed to purchase online and basic essential is the only focus thus where the conceptualization came out very specific - the food."
Other challenges Paolo faced was the main core of his business, cooking! He admitted that he did not have any experience in cooking and this became a major adjustment as he had to learn everything fast. This was not only about cooking food, but innovating a food product too!
While a food-on-the-go business may look simple and to the eyes of others, easy to form, the process of putting up GrabSilog was a tedious one in order to provide the best value for money for their customers.
Paolo narrates, "the process of product development did really focus on fast and easy. We thought of Filipino dish that can be prepared and transported quickly without compromising the taste of the food. Back-to-basic was the key during lockdown thus our menu offers basic meat, fried rice and egg with the combo of latest Filipino trend on drink which is the milktea.
"We started researching and watching how to prepare and cook our Silog menus and recreated it in our home kitchen. We sent samples to some of our chef/cook friends, asked them to critic on how we can give a twist to the basic recipe of Silog. With regards to the drinks such as milktea, fruitea, frappe and millshake, we attended an online training where we actually taught how to mix these drinks virtually. One thing I learned in preparing the drink is the secret recipe of mixing it with your feelings, that is why all my drinks had the word "Amoré" in its names.
"After we finalized the branding and concept, I realized that even the target is online consumers, it is still better to have a visible place where we can prepare the food, a hub which will be known for riders and at the same time a place for take out and pick up orders. We found a place in Las Piñas nearby SM Southmall and we find a small space with equipments and the location is good to start with where it is situated beside a barangay hall, a basketball court and apartments where most of SM Southmall employees pass by when going home. We registered the business to DTI and processed the certifications from Barangay, City Hall and BIR.
"We looked for suppliers and it was a challenge due to lockdown. We decided to went to the nearest market, bought the raw ingredients, materials and manufactured the products in our home kitchen. With the inputs from our chef/cook friends, we marinated our tapa, pork, chicken. For the drinks, the supplier was provided during the online training."
All the preparations paid-off. The business opened in June 13 and on its first day of operations, sales went beyond targets and expectations. "We ended up our first month with a good numbers and with the data we had, we are making new ideas for innovation and soon GrabSilog will offer Burgers and Shawarma too," Paolo said.
According to Paolo, GrabSilog's bestsellers are TapSilog, SisigSilog, and PorkSilog with a price range from Php 75 to Php 90. The best sellers in the establishment's milkteas are Amoré Classic Wintermelon, Dark Choco, Special Double Dutch, Nutella and Rock Salt and Cheese series ranging from Php 85 to Php 125.
Paolo learned that putting up a business in the middle of a pandemic poses a lot of challenges but with focus and determination, he knows that all are possible. "One word to describe the learning from this experience is UNSTOPPABLE. No matter how worst the situation is, we should never stop and must continue with our responsibilities. We must keep on trying to achieve what we want. The pandemic and retrenchment are both nightmares but I always think of ways to wake up from a very good dream. Putting up a business in a pandemic and in a lockdown is a no joke, there is a need for spontaneity, there is a push to become innovative and there is a requirement to be strong, the 3 right ingredients to become UNSTOPPABLE. Never ever give up with the business, there is no failure but only lessons learned to just continue," he narrates.
Paolo is well aware of the plight his winged colleagues in the airline industry are facing. As such, he has these words of advice and encouragement to all flight attendants and stewards facing uncertainty:
To all my cabin crew colleagues out there, we are well aware of the effects of the current pandemic and the situation that the aviation/airline industry is facing. No matter how painful for us the steps they have taken to save the industry, let's translate this situation to an opportunity. As Jack Ma once said, "Don't look for opportunity. Look for challenges and complaints. That's where the opportunity is.
Thank you for sharing your #asensocabincrew story FS Paolo, and may your story inspire and motivate our other flight attendants to keep pushing forward amidst these challenges we are currently facing.
For food and refreshment orders, you may reach GrabSilog at 09271841755 or through our Facebook Page GrabSilog https://www.facebook.com/GrabSIL0G. Please follow their Instagram @grabsilog. Grabsilog will soon be in Food Panda too and other food delivery applications.