How to feed a thousand IDP’s (Internally Displaced Persons) with just 3 hours notice? That was the challenge when the call came one Friday afternoon, shortly after Typhoon Yolanda struck the Visayas, and the first batch of evacuees from Leyte arrived in Cebu. We immediately said yes, we could do it! But when we put the phone down, a mild panic set in. Could we really cook up 1200-1500 cups of rice and a viand and vegetable for 1,000 people in 180 minutes? We serve far less people than that number in our restaurants in a single sitting, so this was certainly a challenge.
But logistics is really just about planning and the efficient use of resources, so here’s how we did it. All branches within 15 minutes of head office, (that’s three of them) were immediately called and told to cook as much rice as they could manage with all rice cookers on hand. As soon as the rice was cooked, it was removed and another batch of rice was placed in the cookers. From our walk-in chiller at the commissary, we took out nearly 70 kilos of lechon sisig and that was portioned by branch and sent out on motorcycles to the branches so that 4 kitchens (including head office) could cook simultaneously on up to 20 burners total. Our buyer jumped into a van, sprinted to the nearest market, and bought vegetables for a chopsuey good for 1,000 — the veggies were washed, sliced and cooked also in less than an hour total. Packing started about 30 minutes before we were scheduled to leave the office and it was ALL HANDS ON DECK!
As the cooks did their thing, nearly every one else with hands was assembling little foil lined Chinese take out boxes with a red carrying handle. We had several hundred of these left over from various store promotions, and unfortunately, the rest of the meals had to go into styrofoam containers for economy and speed. Dozens of folks from cooks, to accountants, HR people and myself put on plastic gloves and portioned food like there was no tomorrow. It was a frantic scene… and the thousand meals were sent off to evacuation centers shortly thereafter.
It’s an amazing experience to be part of some stressed out, little-advance-notice, but important request such as this one. People you work with build more interesting relationships when they are all thrust into situations such as this… the outcome, I think, could only be positive. Everyone was EXHAUSTED by late afternoon and cooks at branches still had to make it through the evening service, but it worked out rather nicely. At a second feeding a few days later, we served chicken adobo and a vegetable dish as well. A couple of folks snickered when they saw what we were sending out… lechon pa daw. But at Zubuchon, even rush feeding program requests get handled OUR WAY. And that means food we would be proud to eat, any day of the week. :)