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The Corner Pizza story

How a 17-year-old saved jobs and put up a thriving pizza brand

Marco Siy, the 17-year-old who envisioned Corner Pizza.

Difficult times have always forced change. People and organizations adapt to survive and thrive during the new normal.  For most businesses, the Covid 19 pandemic of the past 18 months has been the most difficult time in their existence. 

For EPEI, the mother company of  the brands, Kenny Rogers Roasters and Seattle’s Best Coffee, revenues from their 150 outlets built over 25 years disappeared overnight on the first total lockdown in March 2020. The next 18 months was a rollercoaster of lockdowns and quarantines that severely impacted the company and its 1800 employees. 



To adapt in this environment, Kenny Rogers Roasters had to think outside the box on how to bring the brand’s signature chicken, ribs, and side dishes closer to the consumer who was stuck at home having to decide between hundreds of choices.

Kenny Rogers Roasters decided it needed an entirely new product that would not cannibalize existing products while maximizing efficiency and manpower use, as well as current infrastructure and resources.

Corner Pizza’s newest offering:  Thick, chewy and cheesy Detroit Pizza

“It seemed like the right time to take risks. There was little to no revenue to lose and everything to gain back during the height of the pandemic. This is what prompted us to found one of the Philippines’ first virtual brands: a cloud kitchen called Corner Pizza.” says Marco Siy, the 17-year-old son of the owner of EPEI and a member of the group who envisioned Corner Pizza. It was the perfect fit for the company and the market during the height of the pandemic. 

While the idea of a cloud kitchen (also known as a ghost kitchen) was not new in and of itself, their rise during the pandemic has been a great inspiration to restaurants all over the world who turned to this novel idea of serving customers without a traditional brick and mortar restaurant during periods of quarantining and lockdowns.

“What we prioritized is efficiency. We wanted to deliver our food without increasing costs so we decided – hey, we have all these kitchens that are otherwise dormant, why don’t we deliver pizza from them!” said Marco about the implementation of the Corner Pizza cloud kitchen brand. Kenny Rogers used its existing 100 kitchens, existing ingredients, online platform and delivery resources to launch an entirely new, high quality product nationwide with minimal investment.



 

“We also wanted to avoid making redundancies. We understand that the pandemic has been extremely hard on our employees, and we didn’t want to add to their troubles so instead we retrained them under Corner Pizza and had the added benefit of not needing to spend more on hiring new employees.” When asked about why pizza, Marco said: “It’s known as the pandemic food — perfect as a snack and great for sharing around your house. It’s also something that Kenny’s has never done but we always thought would be interesting. Who doesn’t like pizza!”

From Corner Pizza’s launch in November 2020 to date, revenues from the startup pizza parlor is approaching $1 million.  As the world slowly goes back to normal and the food industry slowly recovers, difficult times may be destructive, but it can also be used to adapt and create. On a brighter note: Corner Pizza is looking to open its first, small brick and mortar store: a sign of better things to come!


Article was originally published in Manila Bulletin.