Dining in Times of COVID: Insights from a Food Blogger 0 310

By Dhara Gunawardene

During the lockdown in April and May 2020, my culinary skills were certainly tested. The delivery services came back online about a month or so after lockdown, so I had nothing else to do but engage in the usual millennial things such as cook,eat, and make the occasional TikTok video. 

Having been confined to my home for nearly 3 months, I was forced to research recipes to keep my food blog going. However, all that changed eventually when we were finally allowed to step out of the house once again, and I was back to visiting my favorite cafes, having embraced all the COVID-19 precautions.

Something I noticed however was that in Colombo, it is almost a second nature to us to go out and explore new dining spots. We’ve always been ready to support and visit a new restaurant or café as soon as it launches

Although we were cautioned to be very aware of the risk the virus posed, we still continued to visit places that made us feel safe and comfortable. Even if I did not have my food blog, I would still have visited places where I felt safe.

Rasai Machang (@rasaimachang) started out in 2015 as a hobby, but has since evolved into a passion that combines my interest in photography and food.

Being a part time blogger and full time foodie, has steered me to land a job in the food industry. To my friends and family, it came as no surprise when I joined a successful group of restaurants as their social media executive, but to me, this was not what I studied for. 

Having a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design, I never knew that a deep interest in food and dining could land me a job that paid to eat. This is something that my waistline does not thank me for. This amazing job has also allowed me to observe spending habits, as well as the ever-changing restaurant culture and food trends. 

What I’ve learned is that people get bored very fast. Restaurants and cafes need to keep up with trends, or they get left behind. Many restaurants closed down in 2020 due to a lack of cash flow, but also for their inability to think outside the box. 

Restaurants that thrived on dine-in customers, including tourists, soon experienced empty tables and snail-pace days. Why? They could not adapt fast enough to survive. Many restaurants quickly hopped on local delivery platforms and managed to keep their sales going. Some restaurants in the South that were heavily relying on tourists, moved their restaurants closer to Colombo to cater to the local market.

What I admired about some cafes and restaurants was how hard they worked to push through and survive these uncertain times. They changed their menus, changed their marketing photography style, upped their social media game and gave crazy offers. All this, to survive for a better day. 

Who helped them the most? Their loyal patrons did. People ordered delivery, takeaway, and some brave souls would even visit and sit at their favorite dining places despite the fear of COVID-19.

The new ‘restaurant culture’ is one where people are nervous about stepping out. Besides the fear of infection, most people have less money in hand these days. Some have lost jobs and others are on reduced salaries. Due to this, the average spends at restaurants is lower. 

I’ve also noticed that people prefer ordering directly to their homes no matter the restaurant, just because they’re safer and more secure in their own home rather than at a restaurant with other diners. Spending habits have decreased, and people, including myself, tend to go for deals and promotions rather than spend the full amount. 

In these unpredictable and unnerving times, people are looking for the new thing, the new deals; some kind of  distraction. Restaurants put out new menus and new items, for people have a form of escape.

Social media plays a major role in the customer decision making process. For example, when you hear about a new restaurant or café, you would immediately search for them on Facebook, Instagram or Google. If that  restaurant has an effective social media feed, it’s guaranteed that people will keep visiting for the aesthetic appeal. 

I follow this method as well; I only visit and review a restaurant once I have researched their establishment and seen their feed. It is important to me that restaurants have a strong brand, because it helps them create a loyal fan base and it helps them generate more foot traffic.

Food culture depends a lot on the trends around the world; what’s hot and what’s not. Then again, social media plays a big role because you see trends online and then try to follow a similar design.

In my view, restaurants and cafes should understand their local market and then cater to it in their own distinctive ways. It will be a while before tourists return, however it is only the locals who can help sustain and grow businesses. 

Since people cannot travel out of Sri Lanka, it is also important to create dishes and dining experiences unique to Sri Lanka. We shouldn’t copy and try to be like international restaurants, we should set our own standard. We can certainly emulate or be inspired by international players but not copy blindly. 

It’s very important to remember that when we had zero foreigners visiting, we always had the support of local customers. The minute you forget who you are really catering to, (pun intended), is when you stop being relatable. 

Being relatable is so important because people want to identify with a brand. They want to feel good and be appreciated when they visit. I do believe that restaurants in Sri Lanka could also use influencers to further promote their brand. It is certainly a cost for the restaurant industry, but sometimes you have to lose a little to gain a little.

I for one, can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2021. What I love about this industry is that it’s always changing, it’s always evolving and adapting. It’s amazing! And it’s even more amazing how we bounce back and how much support restaurants and cafes get from their loyal patrons. It’s this love and support that can help make or break a brand.

I certainly urge people to use caution, but also don’t forget to support your local restaurant or café. They need your help and you need food. It’s a win-win situation! Because, after all, you are the trend maker.

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The Most Important Question of Your Life 0 1869

By : Chantal D

Everybody wants what feels good. Everyone wants to live a carefree, happy and easy life, to fall in love and have amazing sex and relationships, to look perfect and make money and be popular and well-respected and admired and a total baller to the point that people part like the Red Sea when you walk into the room.

Everyone would like that — it’s easy to like that.

If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.

 

How-to-get-hapiness-in-love-life

A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is “what pain do you want in your life?” “What are you willing to struggle for”? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.

Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence — but not everyone wants to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé boundaries of an endless cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, without the sacrifice, without the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.

Everybody wants to have great sex and an awesome relationship — but not everyone is willing to go through the tough conversations, the awkward silences, the hurt feelings and the emotional psychodrama to get there. So they settle. They settle and wonder “What if?” for years and years until the question morphs from “What if?” into “Was that it?” And when the lawyers go home and the alimony check is in the mail they say, “What was that for?” if not for their lowered standards and expectations 20 years prior, then what for?

Because happiness requires struggle. The positive is the side effect of handling the negative. You can only avoid negative experiences for so long before they come roaring back to life.

At the core of all human behavior, our needs are more or less similar. Positive experience is easy to handle. Its negative experience that we all, by definition, struggle with. Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing and able to sustain to get us to those good feelings.

People want an amazing physique. But you don’t end up with one unless you legitimately appreciate the pain and physical stress that comes with living inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless you love calculating and calibrating the food you eat, planning your life out in tiny plate-sized portions.

People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to appreciate the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not.

People want a partner, a spouse. But you don’t end up attracting someone amazing without appreciating the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released, and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. It’s part of the game of love. You can’t win if you don’t play.

What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life.

There’s a lot of crappy advice out there that says, “You’ve just got to want it enough!”

Everybody wants something. And everybody wants something enough. They just aren’t sure if it’s what they really want, if its what they want “enough” to sacrifice for.

Because if you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also bare the costs. If you want the beach body, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten thousand.

If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.

Sometimes I ask people, “Why do you choose to suffer?” These people tilt their heads and look at me like I have twelve noses. But I ask because that tells me far more about you than your desires and fantasies. Because you have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns. And ultimately that’s the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have similar answers. The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?

That answer will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change your life. It’s what makes me, “me” and you, “you”. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.

For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician — a rock star, in particular. Any badass guitar song I heard, I would always close my eyes and envision myself up on stage playing it to the screams of the crowd, people absolutely losing their minds to my sweet finger-noodling. This fantasy could keep me occupied for hours on end. But even then it was never a question of if I’d ever be up playing in front of screaming crowds, but when. I was biding my time before I could invest the proper amount of time and effort into getting out there and making it work. First, I needed to finish school. Then, I needed to make money. Then, I needed to find the time. Then… and then nothing.

Despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time and a lot of negative experiences to finally figure out why: I didn’t actually want it.

Music-Concert

I was in love with the result — the image of me on stage, people cheering, me rocking out, pouring my heart into what I’m playing — but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it. Repeatedly. Hell, I didn’t even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly tried at all.

Our culture would tell me that I’ve somehow failed myself, that I’m a quitter or a loser. Self-help would say that I either wasn’t courageous enough, determined enough or I didn’t believe in myself enough. The entrepreneurial/start-up crowd would tell me that I chickened out on my dream and gave in to my conventional social conditioning. I’d be told to do affirmations or join a mastermind group or manifest or something.

But the truth is far less interesting than that: I thought I wanted something, but it turns out I didn’t. End of story.

I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.

Who you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.

This is not a call for willpower or “grit.” This is not another admonishment of “no pain, no gain.”

This is the most simple and basic component of life: our struggles determine our successes. So choose your struggles wisely, my friends.

Let’s Talk Sustainable Fashion 0 219

By Mahika Panditha

At some point or another, you have probably heard the term ‘sustainable fashion’, or you have used it before. For those of you that do not know, sustainable fashion is basically clothing that is designed, used, manufactured and distributed in the most environmentally friendly manner. It goes hand in hand with ethical fashion, which refers to a type of consumerism where consumers are conscious of the social welfare and employee rights behind the clothes they purchase and wear. 

Nowadays, the fashion industry should be moving towards making their efforts more sustainable. It is only beneficial for them as it will allow them to operate in ways that will allow them to work for years and years. There is an ever-growing interest in doing so, with sustainable fashion being highly debated and covered in the media, and within the companies and so on and so forth. 

Many businesses around the world are looking to transform their business models and are adjusting their supply chains to reduce the negative environmental impacts they cause. Unfortunately, sustainable fashion is not the forefront of the industry. It is fast fashion that has taken over and has become the dominant market. Fast fashion is clothing that is designed with the intention of being sold at cheap prices. This invites consumers to buy and buy, while the clothes end up being disposed of as opposed to recycled. 

This is at the other end of the spectrum, as fast fashion is far from sustainable by exploiting workers around the world for cheap labour, and misusing natural resources at hand, there is an absurd amount of waste piled up because of it. Aside from this, the fashion houses that everyone loves to look at, only produce a few collections per year, whereas a fast fashion brand would have new pieces coming out every single week. 

Sustainable fashion is slow, but what caught the world’s eye was the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in 2013. The tragedy of the garment factory in Bangladesh caused over 1,100 deaths, and is said to be the worst ever industrial incident. It was an eight-story building in the outskirts of Dhaka; there were large cracks found on the building the day before the collapse. The shops and banks on the lower floors were closed, but all warnings to evacuate the building were ignored. When the garment workers returned the next day, the building collapsed leaving many dead, and many more trapped under rubble and machinery for hours to days before being rescued. Gaining worldwide attention, the public interest and media attention uncovered the truth of fast fashion (cheap labour, terrible working conditions, etc.). Many activists and several organisations fought tooth and nail to bring attention to the problems that fast fashion has caused and will cause in the future. The Rana Plaza tragedy forced transparency in the industry; to this day, there is still a major debate occurring all over the world. 

Sustainable fashion is not an isolated term; there are many forms of sustainable fashion. You may see some of your favourite actors and actresses promoting sustainable and ethical fashion, for example re-wearing a red carpet outfit. There are many strategies for sustainable fashion, all of which advocate conscious production and consumption. It goes as follows (via Green Strategy); Custom Made clothing (this can be made-to-order, bespoke, DIY), Green & Clean, High Quality and Timeless Design (which you will find in the traditional fashion houses, in regards to Sri Lanka – it would be sarees passed down through generations), Fair and Ethical (clothing that is made traditionally with animal rights and human rights in mind, or using artisan craft – this can even include handlooms), Repair, Redesign and Upcycle (if one of your favourite tops was missing a button, you could easily repair it instead of throwing it out), Rent, Lease and Swap (sharing clothes with friends or renting out fancy outfits for one-time events), and last but not least – Second Hand and Vintage (which happens to be one of the most popular options that more and more people are looking into nowadays with the surge in thrift stores both online and offline). 

When it is put like this, it does not seem difficult to adjust to from an individual standpoint. When an item of clothing is completely worn out, it can be returned to its first stages and reused. Instead of purchasing new items constantly, there are many ways to recycle your pieces; for example, a scarf can be used as a wrap-around tube top. 

The good thing about this model is that there is a strategy for everyone but some strategies will not work for some people; it is all about individual taste but it just goes to show that it is not impossible to support sustainable fashion. 

With regards to corporate responsibility, while they have a responsibility to change their production and distribution practices, they also have the responsibility towards their consumers and the patterns showcased from their customers. In Sweden, some companies provide second-hand or rented fashion systems, which allow consumers to lease clothes or accessories. Other companies have set up collection and recycling systems which will aid in the reusing of items and textiles. 

As a consumer that supports the sustainable fashion movement, you should ideally be looking for eco-friendly dyes. This includes dyes from digital printing as well that are more plant-based, recycled materials such as clothes that have been made from pre-existing textiles that do not require any new extraction from natural resources. This can include recycled nylon, polyester and cotton, in addition to organic and natural materials such as hemp, linen, cotton, silk and so on. As opposed to acrylic, nylon, or polyester which is derived from petroleum, low-waste or zero design clothing minimal to zero pattern cutting, as this contributes vastly to waste material. 

Further, you also have a choice of locally made clothes, such as products of local vendors you can support who source their fibres from local regions, a concept that many brands have embraced by producing their items closer to the location of purchase. The final option is second-hand clothes where you can find durable second-hand clothing, especially if it is handed down through family.