As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, various levels of restrictions have been placed on establishments and residents since mid March. Starting August 18, for example, Fort Bonifacio is under General Community Quarantine Version 2. No need for quarantine pass, but curfew hours remain to be from 8PM to 5AM (changed to 10PM to 5AM from Sep 1). Mandatory wearing of not only face masks, but also face shields for entering malls. Completion of contact tracing forms at the entrance of malls as well as the filling of health declaration form at establishments.
Photo above: There is a new object that people are using to dib a table in food courts.
Since the pandemic looks set to continue for at least a few more months, some of the changes we see may have permanent effect.
Restos half open
If you stroll down the main Bonifacio High Street at the end of August, you will see that about 60% of restaurants are open for dine in, such as: Marugame, Sunnies Cafe, TGIF, Italianni's and Din Tai Fung.
On the quieter part of BHS, such as the buildings (C block) near Central Square, many restaurants are closed, especially on the upper level. Buffet restaurants, like Alley by Vikings and Yakimix, of course cannot open.
In Serendra Piazza, a wide range of cuisines can be found, almost like the good old days. There are ramen shops, Chinese noodles (Shi Lin), burger joint (8 Cuts), Vietnamese (Zao), Italian (Gino's) and a couple of Japanese restaurants. Seating capacity is reduced to 30% as mandated by the authorities, though.
Photo above: the Fort Entertainment Complex becomes quiet under a curfew that starts at 8PM
Over at the Fort Entertainment Complex, an area that is more known for vibrant night life, the going is definitely slower. Nonetheless, a couple of Korean and Japanese restaurants still manage to open, and we were glad to see that a BGC-veteran, L'Opera, is still open, and is offering 20% off for take out and delivery.
A few of the restaurants in BGC seem to be doing quite well in the evening and at weekends. Those are the ones that have been able to build up a loyal following, especially within the expat community in Fort Bonifacio, before the pandemic started, e.g. Wildflours, Brotzeit, La Picara, to name a few.
Even very good restaurants have to adjust and adapt in order to stay open. Mango Tree, a high-end Thai restaurant at BHS, now offers bento boxes for take out at below P200. Some ramen shops that used to refuse to allow customers to take out now sell ramen kits for customers to cook at home.
Of the restaurants that display a "Closed" sign, some have shown signs of permanent closure. Tsuta soba noodles located at a quiet corner of C3 building at BHS has drawn its curtains since July. Slice Restaurant at C2 building has papered over its shopfront. Sunrise Buckets near Burgos Circles have moved out.
New Shops delay opening
Some retail spaces had posters of new eating places put up well before the pandemic. Crystal Jade Chinese Restaurant at Central Square, Cafe Romulo and a Hong Kong restaurant at One Bonifacio High Street, Les Amis at the Net Park are some examples. We have not seen any sign of opening.
Low visibility means low turnover
With offices half open, and many people who used to work in offices in BGC now work from home, restaurants located in less visible areas are under even more stress. Quality restaurants at the top floor of Central Square like Kitchitora and Va Bene continue to struggle, and so are those at Arya Plaza, and those in obscure locations like Pintxos.
But not all is lost. New restaurants have opened during the pandemic. e.g. Kashmir Indian Restaurant at 3rd floor of One Bonifacio High Street mall, and Francesco's Italian restaurant located next to Tomatito restaurant at 30th Street.
Help your favorite restaurant AND treat others for free
During the pandemic, many high quality restaurants are also under stress. Some are at the brink of closing for good. You can help by ordering from them, but you probably would not be able to do too much on your own.
One novel way to help your favorite restaurant is to harness the power of many. A group of residents in a condominium building in BGC, for example, reached a deal with an Italian restaurant in Central Square so that a collective order of over five thousand pesos of food would yield a tray of pasta good for 8 persons. The freebie would be given to the property management employees, who have to take on additional tasks to keep residents safe during the pandemic.
A web platform called www.CoShopNow.com was used by the organizer to manage the orders from her neighbors. Fortunately, enough residents of the condo joined the initiative. The restaurant provided the free pasta and free delivery as promised to the condo, and everyone was happy. Without spending anything extra, the residents were able to boost morale of the property admin staff, and support their favorite restaurant.
If you would like to do something similar, try getting a group deal with your favorite restaurant and setting up a campaign in www.CoShopNow.com (free) and announce it through your building's social messaging platform.
Above: The road to recovery may be long, but we will get there.
Tough times build resilience
The pandemic and its resulting restrictions have impacted everyone's life. People who work for retail establishments are particularly hard hit. If the restrictions remain in place beyond this year, we can see the number of operating restaurants in the Fort to stay low. Only those that are well established, and agile enough to adapt to the new environment will survive. Then, maybe a year or so from now, new restaurants may emerge. Hopefully, we will see some of our old restaurant friends return, albeit in a different shape or form.