Up-and-coming Philippine startup, MetroPlate, is hoping to discourage night-shift workers – particularly the BPO industry – from binging on fast food and cater healthy food to them. The startup that was placed fifth in the recently-held Startup Weekend Manila, is in talks with restaurants and BPOs to understand the latter’s needs and work out an efficient delivery system.
Eating habits of night workers is a bit of concern not only in Philippines but the world over. Working through the night shift is considered to be one of the most hazardous schedules, because it interrupts humans’ natural circadian (sleep) rhythms. This also encourages workers to practice unhealthy habits, such as smoking and binge eating. Unfortunately, for many workers in the Philippines’ business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, the night shift also corresponds with regular working hours for clients — many of whom are located in the west.
The Philippine Senate has gone as far as to file a Bill that aims to take care of workers’ health, through the Magna Carta for Call Center Workers. Senators’ research has determined that 42.6 percent of Filipino BPO employees worked the night shift. Among the workers surveyed, 47.7 percent suffer from insomnia, while 54 percent suffer from fatigue — ailments usually brought about either by unhealthy sleep schedules, as well as ever-changing shift schedules.
If workers are constrained to the night shift, then they should not be limited to eating fast food, says Jerome Ibañez, Co-founder, MetroPlate. “Stress, during night shifts is unavoidable. But, most people are making their conditions worse by eating junk. We want to change that mindset of theirs and introduce a new way of healthy living,” says Ibañez, adding, “We really want to stop BPO employees from eating in fast food restaurants and start eating more sensibly.”
As an added benefit, employers are likely to save money from health and productivity related losses. “BPOs in particular, lose lots of money due to health and productivity issues, and you can blame the employees’ bad eating habits,” says the entrepreneur.
The goal for the startup is two-fold. Firstly, to encourage healthy eating among night workers; and secondly, to help small business owners — particularly restaurants — in booking orders from a niche market.
According to Ibañez, many restaurant owners have expressed interest in the platform. He says that his team will not interfere with the menu offerings and pricing of these restaurants, but will charge a tiered rate as part of the company’s business model. Deliveries below PhP 1,000 (about US$25) will be charged PhP 99 (about US$ 2.50), while deliveries above PhP 1,000 will be free.
Ibañez wants to “encourage bulk buying,” which will make the “restaurants’ job — and MetroPlate’s — easier.” For each transaction, MetroPlate will also take a 20 percent share from the partner restaurant. The online platform would not restrict itself to being a booking outlet but will get itself into the delivery system.
MetroPlate is having a test launch soon with a number of BPO employees in Alabang and QC in the coming months. The website though isn’t coming up “just yet”. “What we are going to do is good old-fashioned sales talking. Once it grows, that’s when we will launch the website,” says the C0-founder.
However, the company does have a Facebook page is urging users and restaurateurs to sign up for updates and enquiries. A mobile app too is planned, but that will have to wait till MetroPlate extends services beyond the current 10 PM to 7 AM shift. “As for our promotion, we will be relying heavily on social media and direct sales talk with restaurants and BPOs.”
How’s the service different from the current food delivery platforms like FoodPanda? “We would want to expand to day workers as well, but for now we’ll focus on the nocturnals,” says Ibañez. “The main reason for this is that there is less competition for our merchants — basically no restaurants are open after 10 PM, and even if there are, they are few.”
He adds that delivery during the target times — 10 PM to 7 AM — is easier: “Less traffic for our courier, which will allow us to deliver the food more efficiently.”
Will MetroPlate change the eating behaviour of the night shift Filipinos? Keep an eye on this space.