Why you should think twice before using your senior citizen or PWD discount at restaurants 2
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Food & Drink

Why you should think twice before using your senior citizen or PWD discount at restaurants

For restaurants struggling to stay open during this COVID-19 crisis, the government-mandated 20% discount cuts deep into their bottom line. By NANA OZAETA
ANCX | Jun 10 2020

Restaurants are slated to reopen their dine-in operations very soon in areas under modified general community quarantine, according to the Department of Trade and Industry. That means the general public can go back to dining at their favorite fast food chain or neighborhood café, albeit with new and restrictive guidelines in place to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 in the premises.

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With that in mind, restaurateur Elbert Cuenca posted on his Facebook page the following message: “Public appeal from the F&B industry to senior citizens, PWDs, and national athletes: Please refrain from using your discount privileges to help us get back on our feet. Thank you.”

On the reason for his post, Cuenca explains, “I decided to post my appeal because it was time to acknowledge the elephant in the room.” He elaborates, “It has long been a contentious subject that is largely being avoided by my peers. Before COVID-19, whenever someone would bring up the subject, I would see the backlash and the person bringing it up would be brandished as being insensitive to the plight of seniors and PWDs. I posted it because I am genuinely worried about the future, not only of our industry, but the country in general.” 

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Elbert Cuenca of Elbert’s Steak Room, Elbert’s Pizzeria, Elbert’s Diner, Elbert’s Upstairs Bar, Metronome, and Lazy Oeuf by Metronome (Metronome’s takeout menu service). Photograph by Pat Mateo

In truth, Cuenca’s appeal couldn’t be more pressing today as the food and beverage industry has seen its income cut drastically due to the Luzon-wide quarantine imposed since March 16. Even with takeout and delivery allowed, establishments have been earning only a fraction of what they used to before the crisis. And with dine-in operations starting up soon, things will still not go back to normal, with only limited dining capacity allowed, and with the public still skittish about dining out again.

Currently, restaurants have to give a value-added-tax or VAT exemption, plus a 20% discount on top of that to all senior citizenspersons with disabilities (PWDs), and national athletes upon presentation of an official ID. The idea behind the law is to help these citizens, and those caring for them, with their daily expenses, especially since many are retired or are unable to earn a daily wage.

With this law in place, our lolos and lolas, titas and titos who, once upon a time would hide the fact that they are past 60, now proudly brandish their senior citizen IDs to avail of the discount.

Restaurateur and chef Katrina Kuhn-Alcantara acknowledges, “A lot of seniors look forward to the discount or turning 60 to be eligible, so in that sense, it’s nice that they feel good about getting older. But it’s a privilege given by the government so it should be the government that shoulders the expense. Or make it voluntary for establishments to offer it. I think a lot of seniors and PWDs are not aware that there’s no reimbursement for it.”

Katrina Kuhn-Alcantara of Chuck’s Deli, CDP Global Table, Mesclun, and LIT Manila, has been busy with takeout and delivery through Chuck’s Deli Bakery and her new online marketplace, https://growcerymnl.ph/

The onus of shouldering the 20% discount falls on the restaurant owners, while the government covers only the VAT exemption. Cuenca says, “I believe that those availing of the discount do so out of habit, and because they earned the privilege. Majority are not aware of the impact on the business, as they are under the impression that the government subsidizes this. In other words, presenting their cards has become second nature.”

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In pre-COVID times, while restaurateurs may have grudgingly agreed to implementing this measure, now the burden becomes even heavier. Ginny Roces-de Guzman of Tilde Bakery & Kitchen recognizes that burden, “Our priority is to keep our heads above water, just survive until the pandemic is over. A discount would be a killer. It’s challenging enough to source supplies, and meet the payroll and rent.” As a “proud” senior citizen and lola herself, she empathizes with her fellow restaurateurs and declares that she herself won’t be availing of her senior citizen discount when frequenting other establishments.

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Ginny Roces-de Guzman at Tilde Bakery & Kitchen[Office1]  in Poblacion, Makati. Photo by Chris Clemente

Cuenca is hoping to go one step further. “While I agree that recognition and privilege should be extended to our seniors and PWDs, I believe that the discounts should be limited to basic essential goods like medicine and groceries. Relatively speaking, dining out is a luxury, and luxuries should not be classified as essential. I believe the 20% discount should be encouraged, as a promo perhaps, but not mandatory for all to comply with. We have enough challenges to juggle at this point.” 

While senior citizens and PWDs can help restaurants by keeping their discount IDs inside their wallets, the general public can play a part as well. implores. “When people dine out, hopefully, they also cooperate on reservation time schedule; give the restaurants a chance to turn the tables (considering the extra sanitizing measures in between client reservations) by not staying too long without ordering; be mindful about the price of their bills, like just ordering coffee or small items during ‘peak’ hours,” says Kuhn-Alcantara. And while she’s not about to implement more drastic measures like charging customers through their credit cards in case they are a no-show, she asserts, “We will give our best service, but hopefully, you respect our time too. And tips will be very much appreciated now by the staff.”