Six months into quarantine, Kapuso actress Carla Abellana has kept her steakhouse business going, but barely.
She told PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), "When the pandemic struck, it was such a hard time because we weren’t prepared at all. I’m sure nobody was.
"We had to call off work as soon as the lockdown was announced. It was hard because we had a lot of payables."
In this interview with PEP.ph held on September 13 via Instagram Direct Message, Carla detailed the difficult decisions she and her partners had to make for the survival of their steak restaurant, Holy Smokes.
The 34-year-old celebrity businesswoman said, "We lessened the workforce and operating days from six days a week to three days a week.
"We decided to open for deliveries only. We started by selling all the frozen goods that you can eat at home. All meats only.
"We did that for a month and we were surprised by the sales output... Our overall sales were only 32 percent of what we would make pre-pandemic.
"However, due to less overhead, our sales were okay. We just operated to lessen our payables. It was our only focus—not to earn, but to survive...
"Unfortunately, we had to lay off five staff. The managing partners had to take a pay cut as well."
RELOCATING TO KATIPUNAN
Holy Smokes was cooked up as a self-service casual barbecue eatery in Poblacion, Makati, in October 2016.
Carla co-owns the restaurant with managing partners Juano Gutierrez, Maisa Acosta, and Carlo Limjuco.
Since they launched the restaurant four years ago, Holy Smokes has become the "holy grail of Texas-style barbecue" in the hip commercial center of Makati.
In 2019, in keeping with the Poblacion's bustling nightlife, the partners decided to level up their restaurant by setting up a bar and a DJ every Friday and Saturday.
Juano told Spot.ph that adding the bar makes the business more "sustainable."
In addition to cutting down on manpower, the partners decided to transfer Holy Smokes to Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City.
Carla announced on Instagram last September 11 the reopening of Holy Smokes at its new location where it now shares a space with the casual dining restaurant Tipple and Slaw Katipunan.
She wrote on her caption, "@holysmokesbbqph is ready to have you over for dine-in!
"For the first time since March lockdown, we are sharing the dining space with @tippleandslawkatip at The PopUp Katipunan Ave. cor. Xavierville Ave., Loyola Heights, Quezon City."
Carla told PEP.ph, "We were lucky because Juano is part of Tipple and Slaw Katipunan and he thought of doing a shared kitchen with them in the meantime."
The partners have exhibited the same adaptability as they faced the threat of the pandemic on their hard-earned business.
But first, they needed to take care of their people during the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.
Carla related, "Our biggest challenge was transportation for the staff, getting products, and the health of everyone. But we also had no choice.
"So we made sure to pick up our staff and bring them to the store where they would sleep for three to four days.
"We would bring them home, too, because there weren’t any transportation provided by our government.
"We were more hands-on and that means more risk to the virus."
Carla concluded the with this advice to business owners who, like her, are striving to survive the pandemic: "Just be patient and continue to work hard.
"Life must go on and we can’t let this virus beat us. We have to adapt to changes in working and business climate.
"And be more prepared next time. Also, choose a business model that works well with deliveries."
In its new location on Katipunan Ave., Holy Smokes continues to serve its signature house specialties: USDA beef ribs (PHP2,800-3,600), Wagyu brisket (PHP975-1,600), Peruvian chicken (PHP380-700), smoked bacon (PHP400-700).
It is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursdays to Sundays.