There are many reasons to write this blog, as many as the reasons why we should not write this blog: we are just too busy, too tired, too focused on our work. But we would like to think that writing our opinions, observations, suggestions, and commitments is part of our work. Recently, we had lunch in the Gawad Kalinga run restaurant: Enchanted Farm Cafe, and it prompted us to discuss among ourselves our disappointment with the place. Don’t make that statement discourage you from going to the place on Commonwealth Avenue, as it is a good cause, and restaurants each day have their quality of food and service go up and down for various reasons (an incredibly difficult business to be consistently great in), and who knows, it may be to your liking. No doubt it is worth supporting, and this first entry on our company blog is really a support to the endeavor, even if this support is in the form of criticism.
The disappointment really comes from the realization that it is run just like most social enterprises: it caters to the goodwill of its small group of true believers (the clients when we were there, except for the Sunfu group, were from the Kawad Kalinga leadership, and Ateneo students who were there as part of their social action meeting/work), it does not push itself to keep raising its quality and desire to please, and worse, it clearly hopes that its good heart will see it through. Contrast this to a small catering company and restaurant called Patria, run by Loret Mendoza and his son, which goes out of its way to serve the needs of seamen having their medical exam on Maria Orosa street. The other day I visited them, and they were around a small round table, discussing the menu they planned to serve in the next two months to the employees of a company they have a contract with to feed, serve, and delight. The seriousness at which they were taking their duties and responsibility, for small change, was admirable. Ms. Mendoza said it takes many extra cups of rice for her to earn a few pesos, but she was certainly trying her best. Their food prices are nowhere as high as that of Enchanted Farm, but the food is much better (a little too sweet though for the dinuguan), in fact I had tried their restaurant and their catered food on different occasions, and I must say, they were great. I am worried about criticizing the adobo we ate in Enchanted Farm, which was too salty and took a long time to cook and serve, but the price was just very high for what they were serving. If you charge high, you better be ready to meet the expectations in quality, service, and atmosphere the price will inevitably pump up.
We are not great fans of capitalism here in Sunfu Solutions, thinking the system doomed with incessant ruthless competition, magnifying the worst instincts of mankind, and we would like to describe our medical equipment business as a social enterprise disguised as a business, but no doubt whatever is positive about the capitalist system (innovation, efficiency, drive) must be harnessed. We just did not see that in Enchanted Farm, and we contrast that with Patria restaurant, which has communication problems, as it is not able to communicate to the street where it is located, that it is open to the public. Yet in spite of the complacency, as it has home court advantage of having a contract with the owners of the building to serve its constituency (its employees and seafarer clients), the restaurant management is clearly pushing itself to give healthy and affordable food, great presentation, and efficient service. On the other hand, Enchanted Farm Cafe is in social media, newspapers, and has a band of advocates pushing for it via word of mouth. But can it go beyond the token one-time trial from non-Gawad Kalinga members? To go out of one’s way, in our case from San Juan all the way to Commonwealth? I doubt it, as of today at least, November 1, 2013.
We will not be ambitious in declaring this blog as something that will be updated weekly or even monthly. Most blogs, after the excitement of the first year, die a natural death. But these two restaurants that interest us is also what interest us about health care and medical equipment: we are interested in service, innovation, pushing ourselves to the limit to make a difference, yet making sure our various constituencies will be served well: patients, entrepreneurs, hospital/clinic managers, government health workers, politicians, inventors, manufacturers, medical policy wonks, all of who serve (or harm) the future by touching health policy issues in their daily lives. They may not know it, but the dynamics of the health environment, anywhere, takes so many factors and players to be where it is, good or bad. Washing one’s hands before every meal, a simple procedure, says a lot about the health education of a community. We take our responsibilities seriously, and writing about them and what we think about the world shows our willingness to take time out to reflect, share, and raise the stakes in the bets we are placing.