How to Start a Carinderia with Small Capital in the Philippines

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When I was a student at U.P. Diliman in the 1980’s, my friends and I hardly ate at the canteens or cafeterias around the campus. We would prefer to take the jeepney ride to Katipunan Avenue and eat at “Katips.” Our every day viand was “Grilled Liempo” with unlimited rice for 50 Pesos. It was packed every day! As a student, I thought it was good business and wondered if it was possible to start a carinderia with small capital.

Fast forward 30 years later and the entire Katipunan area has become another reminder or modernization or perhaps a victim of crass commercialization. If there were still carinderias in the vicinity, they were overshadowed by cold, gray structures fronted by brightly colored mascots and neon signs. I would not have foreseen the day Katipunan Avenue would be overrun by malls.

While fast-food has become a way of life, it does not have the magic of the carinderia. Sure, you have pressure fryers to make sure your chicken is properly cooked, and the rice is neatly wrapped in wax paper. But it does not feel like home.

The carinderia is our kitchen away from home. Familiar scents, flavors, and sights; tastes that trigger memories both good and bad. No matter how horrible a day I was having in college, “Katips” always brought a smile to my face and made the problems go away.

But the carinderia has not gone the way of the dinosaur. They will always exist because it is part of our culture. Filipinos want the taste of a good home cooked meal. Damn be the carbs or the strips of fat! The fattier the food, the tastier and the more rice we eat. See the layer of oil on the surface of the sauce? That is full bodied flavor!

Many of the people who patronize carinderia food are blue collar workers who are concerned less about the calories than the energy it gives them to finish work for the remainder of the day.

In the surrounding areas in my neighborhood, there are carinderias every few blocks. They serve food ranging from pork barbecue, spaghetti, Chicken Afritada, grilled liempo and the ubiquitous adobo. There is a carinderia that serves nothing but rice porridge and noodles.

Come lunchtime, and these are packed. There are a few office workers interspersed with the blue collars; everyone finding their space in a wall of monobloc tables and chairs. Some have lines forming outside the small eatery. I suspect Anthony Bourdain would love it here.

The largest carinderia in the area featured a “Dampa” style of service. For those who may not know, “Dampa” is a type of service where the diner selects the ingredients from a wet market and instructs the cook how it should be prepared. I did not try the food because there is no ocean in sight. I am not sure just how fresh the food is. But the place is always packed.

There is a ready market for a carinderia business. If you are thinking of getting into this type of retail food business, here is how to start a carinderia with small capital in the Philippines.

How to Start a Carinderia using a Small Capital in the Philippines

1. Create the Menu

There is nothing complicated about carinderia food. The menu is made up of the most popular and beloved home cooked meals:

  • Adobong Manok at Baboy
  • Adobong Kangkong
  • Chicken Afritada
  • Pork Menudo
  • Pork Sinigang
  • Pinakbet
  • Laing
  • Inihaw na Liempo
  • Longanisa
  • Bicol Express
  • Pork Barbecue

You do not have to serve an extensive menu. You can select 3 to 5 dishes at a time and make sure to have plenty of rice! Filipinos are voracious rice eaters, and extra rice is a cheaper way to get full.

Be careful of serving food that is prepared with dairy such as Laing because it may spoil easily.

2. Register Your Business

It is always a good idea to register your business as a legal entity for the following reasons:

  • Apply for tax incentives or exemptions
  • Secure better terms with suppliers and creditors
  • Present a professionalize image for your business

If you want to be a sole proprietor or plan to get a partner, you can register your business with the Department of Trade and Industry or DTI. If you want to register as a corporation, you have to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC.

There are advantages and disadvantages to either form of business entity. However, I would recommend registering as a corporation. The food business is very demand elastic, and there are many factors to consider in improving sales. If you are on credit terms with your suppliers, you may find yourself in debt if sales do not pick up.

As a corporation, your liabilities are only equivalent to some of its assets. But as a sole proprietorship or partnership, your creditors can run after your personal assets.

Related: 5 Essential Business Permits and Licenses in the Philippines

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