Interview: Gourmet Society PH Founders Share Insights On The Philippine Start-Up Scene

Saturday, October 31, 2015 0 Comments

Gourmet Society PH Founders Share Insights On The Philippine Start-Up Scene

For most people from the outside world… outside Philippines, that is… I’m throwing a dumbfounded expression  when I say that the start-up scene in Manila, Philippines is starting to rock like a diamond in the rough. It’s opening and growing up to be vital, resilient, and inexhaustible. Yes, true story. And though I can’t completely vouch that it will be the NEXT BIG THING anytime soon, I know it’s going to happen in this (my) lifetime. Yes, true story.

I know I’m at a completely different layer of "start-up", since I have been working for start-up / project teams in Fortune-500s-slash-MNCs-all-my-life, I’m still a religious follower of all the people who are a part of the start-up scene – doing their part, playing their role, living the dream.

With that said, I’d like to usher in this really cool food-tech rock stars who’ve been reveling into this start-up frontier that may be of interest to you. A special shout-out to the creative director, together with the rest of her team, for helping to share some intuitions and insights on what’s it like to be part of a Philippine start-up company - the Gourmet Society PH.

Gourmet Society Philippines is not just an additional headcount in the Philippines’ start-up scene; it’s one of the very few that completely understands what it’s like to live in a food-driven culture – appreciates that food is a universal language, just like any Filipino.

Gourmet Society PH is all about redefining restaurant privileges not only through discounts, and collaboration projects with restaurants, but also by ensuring an unforgettable dining experience. They’ve got more than a mouthful of impressive restaurant list. As a member, you will get 20% flat-out discount at all partner restaurants, no minimum spend required – “generosity buffet” over here, yes.

Enjoy the interview!


For the first set, the answers are from the Gourmet Society PH’s Founder and Chairman Aidan Bishop

Bowdy: What inspired you to start Gourmet Society PH and actually do it in the Philippines?

Aidan: I was in London and my auntie gave a gift to my brother, which was a restaurant privilege card.  This sparked my imagination as to the possibility of doing something similar in the Philippines.  When I came back (home) to the Philippines I started to look into the market potential and quickly discovered that the opportunity was a big one.  Filipinos love to eat out and love discounts - a privilege card giving both seemed like a natural combination!  Starting something like this in the Philippines has not been without its challenges but it has been an incredible journey to date and the best part of it is that we are just really starting to scratch the surface of where our company is going so watch this space!

Bowdy: What are some of the characteristics of people that have been successful at your company?

Aidan: Attitude.  Quick to learn.  Creative.  Persistant.  Adaptable.  Results orientated.  These are some of the traits that we look for.  It takes a certain type of person who can work (and thrive) in a startup environment.  There is no place to hide and we don't have the same infrastructure as a big corporate.  So it is definitely not for the faint hearted but there are so many life lessons that can be learnt in a startup so a sense of fun is always a welcome personality trait!  I almost forgot to add that there has to be an absolute and undeniable love of food to work in Gourmet Society :) 

Bowdy: Any advice you would share with other entrepreneurship enthusiasts?

Aidan: Having an inquisitive mind is essential and always trying to understand how things work and how they can be better can give birth to some great ideas.  However making ideas happen is all about the execution - this is the hard part!  If I was to travel back in time and do this again I would have looked to start in a far more simplistic way.  I would suggest the importance of getting something out there first and adapt then maybe you can write your own story.

The other half is from the CEO and Co-founder, Joost Boer

Bowdy: How would you describe the culture in Gourmet Society PH?

Joost: As is the case for many startups, we're building a flat, open, non-hierarchical culture. The atmosphere is light and casual, though we're obviously driven by a sense of urgency. At the end of the day, we've got a company to build and that requires hard work. 

An attractive element about Gourmet Society's culture is it's strong focus on learning. As a team, we continuously strive to become smarter, faster and better. It's interesting to see Gourmet Society beefing up every day - through striking partnerships with restaurants, sharpening up in it's marketing or improving its website and apps - while simultaneously seeing the individuals making up the company also grow. 

Both these things - the visible growth of the company and the growth of the team - are important factors, which in a really positive way feed back into the company's culture. Couple that with good bonds between the team members and you've got yourself a strong company culture.    

Bowdy: What are the most interesting challenges in industry of your start-up?

Joost: Our company hinges on a two-sided business model: Traction is required both among restaurant partners as well with consumers. I believe this type of business to be among the most challenging types of business out there, as there's not one but two groups of incredibly important stakeholders which have to be kept happy. Basically, users need a sufficient supply of restaurants to choose from and restauranteurs need to see a sufficient amount of Gourmet Society members visiting their venue. 

Bowdy: How would you describe the start-up scene in the Philippines? The Good, The Bad, The Funny

Joost: I can't speak for the entire Philippines, but the startup scene here in Manila is pretty vibrant. I think that Manila is more and more shaping up to become a really important startup hub in Asia and there are some really interesting ventures rising up. Examples coming to mind are (which is overthrowing the century-old brick-and-mortar pawnshops who charge outrageous interest rates) and (which sells fashionable yet affordable eyewear online, and donates a pair of glasses for each pair sold to Filipinos unable to afford eyewear). Generally speaking, there's quite some optimism going on in the startup scene here and that's what makes it nice to be a part of it. 

Less attractive facets of the startup scene are mostly tied to external factors which are similar for many developing nations: loads of red tape, a lack of proper infrastructure (e.g. painfully slow internet) and life just moving forward a tad slow in general (e.g. public non-working holidays appear to creep in several times per month) - which can be challenging when building a company. 

As for the funny, well, Filipinos are definitely a fun-loving people and often have a great sense of humor. So there's plenty of fun to go around. :-) 

Bowdy is an amateur adventurer, a coffee sleepyhead, and a start-up rooter, with a penchant for classic-looking photos. At last count, he has visited some 51 countries, and is now living in Singapore. He's always in search of fascinating routines to exploit, within the limits of after-office hours and vacation leaves.

For invites, reviews, or collaboration ideas, email

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