Just when you thought the market has seen its fill of food choices, a made-to-order meal business called The Cucina brings something new to the plate.
“It’s neither fast food nor catering. The Cucina focuses on specially-prepared meals for small parties that want convenience, as well as quality,” explains Raphael Calma, who came up with the concept shortly after graduating from the University of Asia and the Pacific in June 2010.
So aside from being hired as digital producer for digital agency K2 Interactive, Raphael partnered with his college batchmate Miliza Prado, who’s also a corporate affairs officer of Tao Corp., and best friend Jay Angeles, a current student of the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management, to start The Cucina. “It’s a way to practice what we learned, as well as be productive in something we all love—food,” he shares.
The three first-time entrepreneurs spent several months planning and researching their new venture. They also invested a total of P20,000 on food tasting, packaging, kitchenware, and the development of their website. The Cucina currently has seven dishes on their menu—from breakfast to main courses—namely, Bircher Muesi, French Onion Soup, Osso Bucco à la Milanese, Caesar Salad with Cajun Chicken Breast, Pan Seared Tuna with Mesclun Greens in Balsamic Dressing, Braised Beef Roulades, and Linguini à la Vongole. “Dishes are chosen based on season and availability of ingredients. We also customize dishes based on the client’s personal favorites and our own food choices,” says Angeles, who is in charge of the food preparation. “Dishes are priced from P500 to P2,000, and each is good for five people. Most popular are the Bircher Muesli, Osso Bucco, and Vongole.”
Angeles starts buying the necessary ingredients as soon as a customer places an order, which must be at least two days in advance. He then prepares the dishes and has them ready for packing a day before scheduled pick-up or delivery. “Since our meals are special orders, there are no serious risks on the business end. It’s branding and penetrating our target market of families and close groups that are more of a challenge,” reveals Prado.
As such, The Cucina’s marketing and strategic planning has always been a priority. “Online
media and social media—our website, social networking sites, and email messages—have proven to be the greatest source of traffic to our business,” says Calma. “Word of mouth, especially through online food reviews, also plays an important role.”
The first few months went well for The Cucina, as they attracted sufficient public interest and positive feedback. “People specifically liked the convenience we provide. Our website can be accessed by anyone 24/7, and all our dishes can be seen,” says Calma, who estimates their average number of orders to be at least three orders a month.
This article appeared on the March 2011 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines.