BEFORE workout selfies and healthy eating became Instagram-worthy, singer Rachel Alejandro and her sister Barni Alejandro-Rennebeck put up Sexy Chef, the country’s first diet food delivery service.
What began as kiosks in Gold’s Gym branches in 2004 has since evolved into catering services and e-commerce.
“The way to stay afloat for any business nowadays is to keep learning,” Alejandro says.
These “learning experiences” were hard-earned as the two sisters kept making mistakes and paying for them over 12 years.
“There is no blueprint,” she says, “We are probably the most well-known name in terms of diet food delivery service. But at the same time, since there is nothing to pattern it after, it’s all guesswork and we keep tightening the bolts,” she adds.
Alejandro shares that the company was on the verge of closing shop in 2014 when diet food delivery service providers in the Philippines rose from just three to around 30.
In a bid to ward off competition and properly celebrate its 10th year, Alejandro and Rennebeck came up with the Sexy Chef Cookbook and a TV show on cable TV. The promotion, unfortunately, did not translate to sales but rather an increase in competitors.
Some were “direct copies” with a similar logo and name, Alejandro says.
“If this is your pie, Sexy Chef used to get this much of the pie and then another company used to get this much of the pie. Then another company gets a sliver of the pie,” she explains.
“We were in a bit of trouble. We didn’t know if we were going to survive,” Alejandro adds.
The company almost went bankrupt but instead of giving up, the sisters decided to “give it another push.”
“My stepfather infused more money. Thank God we didn’t have to put more money. Just that one time,” she says.
And fortunately, it won back the customers it lost to other providers.
“At least 80 percent of those who tried other food providers came back,” she says.
A website upgrade that allowed consumers to order online and choose from a variety of diet plans also boosted their revenue.
“Even if I’m the most non-techy person, I had to invest,” Alejandro says.
Sexy Chef also streamlined its services and operations by providing a daily menu for each diet plan.
Alejandro says they used to operate like a restaurant where customers can order from a single menu at any time.
“It would be so much easier if we had something like a restaurant where x number of people come every day,” she says, “But that’s not how ours is. We have hundreds and hundreds of meals and hundreds and hundreds of people ordering.”
For the pioneering sisters, Sexy Chef is about serving people well.
“Business is about people,” Alejandro says, “You are talking to people. It’s people who are talking to them and selling to them and really finding a way to serve them.”
“It’s easy to copy paste. It’s easy to act like a robot,” she adds.
Lucky for its customers, Sexy Chef is not one to merely go through the motions.
At the end of the day, Sexy Chef believes it is about providing a vital need, not just for those who want to look good, but more importantly, for those who want to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Originally published in Philippine Daily Inquirer
on September 4 2016 by Rima Jessamine M. Granali, Contributor.