With the country still under some form of lockdown a year into the pandemic, people have had to find ways to celebrate or, at the very least, mark birthdays and milestones at home. By now, many are familiar with takeout, delivery and meal kits, but one company has gone beyond the expected and came up with yakiniku (Japanese-style barbecue) and hot-pot sets that consist of all the raw/marinated ingredients and either a tabletop electric grill or electric hot pot for communal cooking.
Mitasu Yakiniku (@mitasuyakiniku on Instagram) and Nabe Izakaya (@nabeizakyahotpot on Instagram), two restaurants under the Fredley Group of Companies, began offering “on-the-go” sets for those who wanted to recreate the fun of grilling meat or cooking hot pot in the comfort of their own homes.
The on-the-go set from Mitasu has a selection of thinly sliced beef, pork and chicken, several dipping sauces and even a marinade one can pour over the chicken before grilling on the electric grill. The hot-pot set from Nabe also has a number of meats, two types of soup (sukiyaki and a creamy tonkotsu broth), two dipping sauces, and a selection of seafood balls that come plain or filled with cheese.
Diners are instructed to dilute the concentrated soups with a liter of water each before switching the pot on. Both the grill and the hot pot are for tabletop use only and are outfitted with a switch for high heat or low heat. Diners have the option to ramp up the mix by adding cleaned and chopped green leafy vegetables, glass noodles or an egg or two. Nabe recently came out with on-the-go balls—over a dozen seafood balls cooked in a clear broth and served in a takeaway bowl.
I’ve since used the hot pot to cook pasta, and pechay in oyster sauce. I might even use it to make a stew, but will need to keep close watch so it doesn’t scorch.
Keep it moving
Avin Ong, the founder and CEO of the Fredley Group of Companies, told Lifestyle that the situation forced them to be creative and quick on their feet.
“We realized that as business owners, we had to come up with a creative solution to keep the business moving,” Ong said.The challenge with Mitasu and Nabe was how to come up with new ideas because cooking on a grill and preparing hot pot are experience focused. He contacted suppliers, asking them if they could come up with portable hot pots and grill sets that could be used at home.
“We also made sure that they would be affordable because given the pandemic, we’re all experiencing financial difficulties. The products had to be affordable and easy for customers to use and enjoy,” Ong said.When the sets were launched last year, both were well-received by regular and new customers. “We wanted to give people some sense of normalcy. We wanted them to enjoy cooking with their family (or bubble) in the comfort and safety of their home.”
There are only two branches of Mitasu and four of Nabe operating right now, but one chain under the Fredley group that has thousands of fans is Macao Imperial Tea. The popular bubble tea chain is a franchise from Macao and one that is famous for its promos and tea variants.
For its third anniversary last year, customers could upgrade their drink order to one liter at no extra cost. Ong said that they made sure that the “liter of happiness” was available for both takeout and delivery “just so we could abide by the guidelines given by the health department.”
Earlier this month, Macao Imperial Tea launched a new bubble tea variant in time for summer, Cheesecake Halo-Halo. Described as a twist on the classic summer staple, the drink also features the brand’s signature pearls and sinkers.
“We have a very flexible and special lifetime contract with our headquarters in Macao,” Ong said. “As the principal of Macao Imperial Tea here in the Philippines, we can do everything and anything we want when it comes to research development and product innovation.” They even have a chocolate-based range in partnership with the San Francisco chocolate brand Ghirardelli.
“The pandemic pushed us to invest in digital marketing—e-commerce in general. We started our e-store website (order.fredleygroup.com, nabe.fredleygroup.com, mitasu.fredleygroup.com) where people can buy their drinks or food online. We’ve been aggressively working with food aggregators and digital payment platforms to make sure we’re available in every channel,” he said.
As one of the country’s youngest CEOs, the under-30 Ong is able to make these quick but informed decisions to ensure his businesses continue to run.
“This unique experience brought about by the pandemic taught us how important it is to be quick, innovative and adaptable. You really have to quickly adapt to whatever is thrown at you,” he said.
“As a leader, I understood that I needed to stay calm. When everything around is messy, you cannot be the one to break. Everyone is relying on you, and you need to be strong for your company and people.”
Ong’s motivation is the welfare of his staff, adding that retrenching was “simply not an option.”
“It’s still a difficult time for everyone. We just need to endure and always take on the challenges,” he said. —BY RAOUL J. CHEE KEE