Thursday, December 15, 2005

Innovation and habits

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, December 15, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Innovation and habits

WHEN I want to be alone to think through things, I usually go to Chocolate Kiss, my comfort place,” says Gigie PeƱalosa, president, VCP Trading International. “I love their Devil’s Food Cake. Their Dayap Cake is to die for, especially for those who do not care for sweets. Their cakes are simple, but scrumptious, and reasonably priced. I buy whole cakes for special occasions.”

Chocolate Kiss has, indeed, become a daily habit of students, faculty, administrative staff and even visitors at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. According to Popoy and Maline Flores, “Those who come regularly order practically the same food—their favorite comfort food, such as adobo flakes, spareribs, eggplant pagmiggiana, Caesar salad and lasagna, aside from their “legendary” cakes baked personally by Maline.

Maline says that theirs are original family and personal recipes. These used to be her family’s special Sunday fares at home that have now become daily favorites of their customers. Every six months, they remove some food items from their menu and introduce new ones. Maline tries to experiment with new recipes and hold regular food-tasting sessions with her whole family and their friends. CK generally caters to the taste of students which, as Popoy and Maline affirm, is very different from that of adults. As well, they offer larger portions without sacrificing quality.

They have two kinds of menu book: the regular with a list of favorite favorites and the exclusive which has a changeable list. They also offer daily lunch specials—for regular diners who have already “memorized” the menu. Still these regulars go for regular food even on special occasions like Valentine however special they make their menu and recipe. Old habits never die, they just ask for double serving.

Chocolate Kiss started with 13 employees as a coffee shop at the second floor of the UP Bahay ng Alumni. Now, with an extension at the ground floor, it has a committed staff of 64 who work in two shifts. As owners, Maline and Popoy manage the day-to-day operations themselves. This enables them to address issues immediately just like running their own household. Maline says CK has evolved to a business commitment from her simple hobby of baking cakes for friends and family, from a small coffee shop to a full service restaurant.

At the start, they were the only eatery in UP that has air-conditioning so even the university president brings his guests to CK. Now, all UP canteens and cafeterias are fully air-conditioned and their competitive edge is that they have established themselves as a place for fine dining and special dates.

CK is at once cozy and stylish. The interior was done no less than the former dean of the College of Architecture, Honrado “Honey” Fernandez. It has a large oval table for big sit-down dinners that could be taken apart into attractive asymmetrical small tables on ordinary days.

Another innovative idea is that, instead of their own wall decoration which could get boring after a while, the late Dean Fernandez suggested opening up their walls for aspiring UP artists. Now, they have a daily exhibit of paintings and sculpture; every three months, they change the artworks. This makes CK seem to exude a familiar, yet different, ambiance every time depending on the artwork on display.

Maline noticed that CK is also the favorite dating place of their customers. So, they provide musical interlude for the romantics every Mondays (guitar), Thursdays (organ and violin) and Saturdays (piano). As an added treat on certain occasions they put all their musicians together in a much-appreciated concert.

To reach out to their customers who have left UP, their children, with their cousins, have set up a trendy Chocolate Kiss on Roces Avenue, Quezon city.

Give a chocolate kiss this Christmas, call Maline Flores at 09189043416. They still make those wonderfully good chocolate chip cookies.

Popoy is also service president of Rotary Club of Quezon City. Their signature project is a partnership with PCASAM (Philippine Community Antisubstance Abuse Management) in providing antisubstance-abuse education and research at the baranggay level and assistance in the personalized treatment of users at the PCASAM facilities on Manalo Street, Cubao, Quezon City. They are working on expanding this community project by offering this service to more users and improving the treatment facilities. Therefore, Popoy (09189043414) is appealing to kind-hearted people for donations and support.

Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and RCQC North. She awaits your feedback at

No comments: