Manila, Philippines

Simple Easy to Operate Foodcarts in the Philippines

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Eons ago, I wrote about popular food cart businesses in the Philippines (well back then): siomai, empanada, and palamig. In this post, let me add two more which are gaining recent popularity.

The first time I saw these foodcarts, I got mad at my self. No offense (except to my self) but the business concepts were really no-brainers, so simple that it begs the question, why is it that I did not think of those way before? These businesses are really crazy simple, and yet such ideas eluded me for the past 6 years.

Mangga at Bagoong

In English, mangoes and fish/ shrimp paste. Add to that line up singkamas (turnips) and you now have a food cart. Selling sliced and diced mangoes and turnips, with bagoong as dip. Come on, don’t tell me you don’t know how to analyze and reverse engineer this business’ process and supply chain? Easy business model right?

And yet the owner’s can make a killing (and big margins) at such simple and low-cost raw materials. Finding a mango and turnip supplier will not be difficult. Generic packaging (paper plate and boxes), toothpick are available in Divisoria. Then add to that a cooler or refrigerator.The main differentiating factor, maybe, once competition replicates this more and more is on how the bagoong tastes like, the serving size, pricing, and other sliced fruits on the menu. Aside from easy replication though, seasonality of the offered fruits should be addressed as well.

Buko Juice

In English, coconut water. This is not your ordinary palamig business where you sell buko juice ‘posers’ and ‘tastes-like milk’ in small cups. These products come in sealed plastic bottles, and other variations include buko shakes, with added pearls or nata, or with various flavors. Again, finding a coconut supplier is not a tough task. Plastic bottles are also available in Divisoria. You just need to be more creative in terms of product line up, the add-ons, packaging and of course the pricing.

Unlike mangga and bagoong, I’ve seen more of the buko juice business sprouting here and there. Maybe because of good sales? Or easier to find suppliers, not susceptible to seasonality hence price movements? But I’m expecting more and more of mangga and bagoong to sprout as well in the coming months.

Both of them are relatively easy to replicate compared to siomai or empanada where a winning recipe can spell the difference. No established market leader or known brand as well. Hence, franchising can be a mere secondary option. Why not create your own right?

Supply and Demand

Simple right? But in this foodcart industry, simple ideas can also mean more competition because there is not much barrier to entry. Until the market becomes saturated with so much supply and kills those businesses barely making money. The secret, is position these businesses in areas with heavy foot traffic. And also, continuous innovation in the product line up so as not to bore the market. Lastly, enhance the simple products into something more: with just a few add-ons (pearls, nata, bagoong), or focus on its health benefits.

As for consumers, the buying public is willing to pay a premium in products perceived to be a healthy choice, plus convenient and ready for consumption. One can easily buy a kilo of mangoes, a bundle of turnips and a bottle of shrimp paste. Or coconut with the meat and juice. More for less cost, compared to buying in the food carts. But instead, the public patronizes these food carts, because of the less hassle, readily available on-the-go propositions.

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