The few instances I’ve been granted entry to PAL’s Mabuhay Lounge at NAIA Terminal 2 have all the time been spent nursing a sizzling bowl of their famous arroz caldo. It’s a favourite of frequent vacationers because it units the tone for the journey, whether or not it’s a long-haul flight or a fast hop to Visayas or Mindanao.
The pandemic, nevertheless, put a cease to all nonessential journey. Even now that some airways have expanded their flight routes 10 months after the preliminary lockdown, the protection protocols one wants to full earlier than boarding a airplane have taken some of the enjoyable out of touring.
Instead of ready for issues to normalize, one of the biggest inflight caterers started providing within the second half of the yr each cooked and ready-to-cook food to common Filipinos. The MacroAsia Food Group, whose headquarters are positioned close to the airport, operates three primary kitchen services. Two of them are inflight catering kitchens (MacroAsia Catering Services or MACS, and MacroAsia SATS Inflight Services or MSIS) whereas the third is a commissary kitchen, MacroAsia SATS Food Industries or MSFI.
“At the onset of the declaration of the pandemic last March, the operations of the two inflight catering kitchens slowed down significantly, as did any other industry associated with aviation,” stated MacroAsia’s chief working officer Rhodel Esteban.
“It was during this time that the board decided to diversify and adapt to a new mode of business, the online sale of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook food products at MSFI,” he added.
We just lately sampled some of their bestselling viands, together with lechon paksiw, bistek Tagalog, barbecued rooster, lumpiang Shanghai, and pork sisig and located all of them well-seasoned and really tasty. They even have boxed meals together with tocino or bacon with egg and fried rice, with a brownie for dessert, and a Mabuhay Lounge arroz caldo equipment that’s certain to deliver again fond recollections. The latter comes with all of the fixings.
The dessert choice is equally spectacular. My five-year-old nephew had second and third helpings of the chocolate mousse, whereas the adults at residence savored the mango cheesecake that was gentle with a flan-like consistency and never too candy.
MSFI has since expanded their product strains to embody a Filipino Deli part consisting of ready-to-cook objects like pork hamonado, beef tapa, chorizo and longganisa.
The shift to selling to the native market following the downturn in inflight catering appeared like an natural one for the corporate, given their huge expertise in making ready giant quantities of food in document time. Still, it got here with a couple of hitches.
“The most significant challenge was embarking on a totally new concept of selling online… I can say that MacroAsia was able to adapt to the prevailing business environment, though it could have been better if we had shifted much earlier,” Esteban stated. “Agility is the name of the game, that’s how we are confronting the challenges.”
The commissary kitchen has been up to date to adjust to mandated well being protocols. It has been outfitted with a misting disinfection tent, sanitizing alcohol dispenser, and physique temperature sensors at entrances. Staff and friends are subjected to these protocols upon entry.
Esteban described the two-year-old MSFI kitchen as a state-of-the-art commissary kitchen with fashionable tools designed for mass manufacturing; it may well manufacture 25,000 meals per day.
Prepandemic, the manufacturing capability at MACS and MSIS have been from 40,000 to 45,000 meals per day, working 24/7 for three hundred and sixty five days a yr. Now, MSFI caters to the necessities of one native airline, however 95 % of the manufacturing is non-airline.
Seasoned to style
Esteban admitted that dishes served on flights are extra seasoned or flavored as a result of the excessive altitude alters one’s style buds. When they began selling online, concessions had to be made. “Adjustments in flavors, taste and visual appearance geared toward authenticity and ethnicity are not problems for us.”
He places equal or much more significance on correct food dealing with and security.
“Inflight meals have always been categorized as one of the safest types of meals as the safety standards are relatively high. No one can afford to have a mass food poisoning situation while you are 35,000 feet in the air,” Esteban stated.
“Food safety is the backbone of the inflight catering industry and the commissary kitchen is no exception, even if majority of the meals produced now are not intended to be for flight.”
He counts the huge culinary expertise of the MacroAsia group, mixed with their hygiene requirements, as only a couple of strengths that set them other than the others.
With new strains of the coronavirus threatening companies worldwide, Esteban can solely hope that the corporate can adapt—and adapt rapidly.
“Everything that happened in 2020 was unprecedented. No amount of good planning could have prepared us for a global crisis like this. What is important is the collective vision of our company that recovery is imminent. So for now, we shall continue to adapt to the prevailing situation with agility to swiftly shift to where windows of opportunities will open,” he stated.