If there’s one thing the Philippines is known for aside from its famous pristine beaches, it’s that the country is abundant street food scene. In fact, mobile food is so common across the country it’s simply called food. Whether you’re in the capital city or the provinces, the smell of Filipino street food will greet you.
Food carts are a common sight on the sidewalks of urban centers like Manilla, Davao City, and Palayan. Almost all establishment or government buildings will have a restaurant or café too. In short, you don’t need to worry about going hungry in the Philippines. If you’re looking for a way to make a comfortable living, but don’t have much money to invest, try one of these low-cost food business ideas will work anywhere in the country.
- Fish Ball Cart
- Cotton Candy Kiosk
- Siomai Kiosk
- Ice Cream
- Fried Peanuts
- Hot Dog Stand
- Green Mangoes
- Sari-Sari Stores
- Shake Cart
- Fried Chicken Stand
- Buko (Coconut) Juice
- Fried Rice
Fish Ball Cart
If you’ve visited the Philippines before, you already know food vendors selling fish balls on the side of the road is commonplace. Unlike in Chinese-style hot pots where fish balls are steamed or used in soup, fish balls in the Philippines are fried and skewered in sticks. Fish balls can be homemade or store-bought by the vendors and served in flat or round balls. These meals are then fried in front of you and served hot. You can then dip them into spicy or sweet sauces.
Fish balls are so cheap that they’re sold at Php 0.50 a piece. A stick can sometimes be 15 pesos ($0.30). This is one low-cost food business idea you can do since you’ll only need a cart, gas, your pan, fish balls, and sauces to get started. And of course a curbside another vendor hasn’t already claimed!
Cotton Candy Kiosk
Filipinos love sweet things and naturally cotton candy has become a street food favorite. They’re not the huge ones you’ll find at carnivals, but just a regular-sized cotton candy treat.
The cost of a cotton candy kiosk starts at Php 7,000 or $145 USD. Having this for a business is a crowd favorite and you can even market this for events so you can charge depending on the number of people. If you enjoy working at small events like birthday parties or fundraisers this is a terrific business option.
Siomai is the Filipino version of Shumai or Chinese dumplings. The dumplings are commonly filled with pork, beef, and shrimp. There are many varieties of these through the years such as ones wrapped in nori sheets or those wrapped in bacon. But the siomai culture continues to grow and a siomai kiosk is a popular business investment. You can franchise a siomai kiosk for as low as Php 20,000 or about $415 USD.
One thing to keep in mind is that while the ingredient cost of dumplings is low, making the dumplings by hand will require human capital. You can teach family members how to make dumplings alongside you easily enough, but it’s a consideration you should be aware of before getting into the business. This business is higher effort on the manufacturing side.
Ice cream in the Philippines is known commonly as sorbetes or dirty ice cream. Now don’t be alarmed. It’s not dirty. It’s just the way it’s called as a running joke that these are ice creams sold by the streets. But these are quite yummy seeing as it’s made from carabao’s (a type of water buffalo) milk.
This type of ice cream is sold in carts where the tubs are kept frozen with ice and salt. The ice cream is scooped in small sizes and placed in sugar or wafer cones. A single-serve can be affordable and less than Php 50 ($1).
A balut is a Filipino delicacy that is a fertilized duck or chicken egg. It’s very popular and Filipinos eat it by cracking just a small portion of the egg on top and then drink the soup inside. They then eat all the contents (yes, even the duck inside) by adding salt or spiced vinegar.
Admittedly, balut is not for everyone. Some might not find this appetizing to look at. But it remains to be a well-known street food for its taste that having a balut business is profitable and comes at a low cost. This is another popular street food sold by vendors across the country.
Filipino barbecue is sweet and savory since the marinade is a mixture of soy sauce, ketchup, lime, sugar, and spices. It also has a lot of varieties from your usual chicken and pork cuts to sausages, chorizo, and even gizzards and liver. These barbecue stalls come out at night and fill the streets with their smoky delicious aroma for the evening crowd. Barbecue stalls are a sought-after dining option after a night at the bar.
All you need for this business aside from the ingredients is a grill and you’re good to go. There’s not much equipment to buy aside from a grill or flat-top that this business is considered low in cost. We also suggest using a high-quality cooler to keep meat safe before it’s grilled.
The milk tea craze has not exclusive to the Philippines. There are milk tea stalls everywhere selling different kinds of flavors. Most of these stalls are franchised starting at Php 56,000 or $1,165. You can get into the game for even less if you choose operate a stall instead of a shop so you don’t have to worry about high monthly lease payments.
French fries are considered a favorite snack by everyone around the globe but Filipinos amp this staple up a notch by adding in different flavors such as sour cream, cheese, barbecue, ranch, wasabi, and even truffle. Vendors make use of pre-packaged powdered seasoning and coat the fries with it. They sell it by the bucket too!
All you need is open a stand for business is a commercial deep fryer, oil, a bag of French fries, and seasoning powder. This is a fantastic business to start on a budget because the main ingredient is extremely affordable and widely available when purchased in bulk. You can differentiate your product by testing creative dip flavors that other local vendors aren’t offering.
Aside from rice, Filipinos love bread. They snack on a pan de sal in the mornings while dipping it in coffee or have it as snacks along with noodles. White bread, cheese bread, and ube cheese pan de sals are also very popular street food snacks in the Philippines.
A bakery starts at Php 150,000 ($3,120) but if you lack any experience, you can start by franchising a bakery at Php 300,000 ($6,240). If you love to bake, you can even start out of your home kitchen and selling to friends and family members as the first customers.
Corn is one snack that Filipinos will never run out of. You will find corn stalls selling them either steamed or grilled. You can also have these by the cup rather than on the cob and dusted off with powdered cheese as a seasoning. It’s a low-cost business venture wherein the bulk of your expenses will be ordering corn and that’s not very difficult to find since they’re very common in the Philippines.
Fried peanuts in garlic and salt are a favorite by many Filipinos. They’re quite addicting to snack on, especially since the garlic pieces are sliced big and thin so you can also munch on them aside from the peanuts. This is a simple business to operate with good profit margin.
Hot Dog Stand
Hot dog stands are common in the Philippines and they cost less than Php 20 ($.045) per unit. You can also add choices on whether to have these on the bun or not. Franchising for this business starts at Php 170,000 ($3,535 USD). If you’re thinking about operating a hot dog business, we’ve got you covered with the following in-depth case studies and podcast episodes.
- Case Study #1: Ultimate Guide to Starting a Hot Dog Business
- Case Study #2: Total Cost Breakdown for Hot Dog Business Startups (Spreadsheet)
You’ve probably heard about ripe Philippine mangoes being very sweet and tasty but have you ever tried the green ones? Green mangoes are crunchy and sour. The taste of it can make you scrunch up your face like you’re eating a lemon. But Filipinos love to snack on them, especially when they’re paired with bagoong, a fermented shrimp paste.
Green mango stands are a great low-cost business venture since the Philippines never runs out of mangoes and you’ll find great deals for such a supply. You’ll only need the mangoes and your bagoong and you’ll have a green mango stand that many will love.
Related Reading: 25-Step Plan to Making Your Food Company a Reality
Shake carts are common in the Philippines since the country is abundant with fruits. Other than that, Filipinos love sweet things so they also like to drink flavored milkshakes such as chocolate, ube, and strawberry. Pearls are also favorite add-ons when buying shakes. A shake cart franchise starts at Php 79,000 or about $1,645 USD and is also available as a stand and shop.
If you would like learn the pros and cons of opening a smoothie shop, listen to our audio lesson below. You’ll learn how to establish your first vending route and how to create a proof of concept for your company.
Filipino convenience stores, also known as sari-sari stores, are small stores usually situated outside of the owner’s house. Items that are being sold are chips, soda, bread, instant noodles, canned goods, and some toiletries. Basically anything pre-packaged is sold at these establishments.
A sari-sari store is a low-cost business since you don’t have to pay for rent seeing as the store is on your premises. You can start a sari-sari store for only Php 50,000 ($1,040). If your home is located in a high-traffic part of the city this can be a viable business option. And you can’t beat the commute to work!
Fried Chicken Stand
Everyone likes fried chicken. For Filipinos, fried chicken and rice is already considered a good meal. Most international fast food brands that open up in the Philippines add fried chicken to their menu since they know how much Filipinos like to eat this with a large portion of gravy to dip.
Put up a fried chicken stand with add-ons such as rice or fries on the side. Though we guarantee you that serving rice will surely make this business a hit, offering flavored fries and dips can also win customers over.
Filipino food isn’t the only popular cuisine in the Philippines. Shawarmas are also becoming a more popular food item across the island. Filipinos love the taste of the tortilla or pita wrap with sliced beef or chicken as filling with either spicy sauce or sweet cheese sauce drizzled in it. Franchising for a shawarma stand starts at Php 10,000 or $208 USD.
Buko (Coconut) Juice
Aside from mangoes, the Philippines is abundant in coconuts so there are a lot of coconut juice stands. There are different options for this such as pure coconut juice, sweetened coconut juice, coconut juice with the meat of the fruit, or juice shakes. The challenging aspect of operating this type of business will be cracking open coconuts to extract the meat and juices.
Taho is a Philippine snack that consists of silken tofu, syrup, and pearls. You will see vendors carrying tubs of these on their shoulders. It’s sweet, warm, and very tasty food item.
Taho has also been modernized wherein it is available as a franchise and comes as a food stall. Franchising for a taho stall is at Php 180,000 ($3,745) but this rate can be lowered if you’d like to try out the traditional way of selling taho on a bike. You can learn some good strategies for marketing and profiting from a taho business, check out this article.
Popcorn stands are spotted frequently in town plazas in the Philippines. You can spot them right next to the fish ball vendors and taho vendors.
You can put up a popcorn stand at just Php 6,900 ($145) with different flavored powder to season your popcorn. Learn how to operate a successful popcorn business here.
Rice is a staple for Filipinos which is why a fried rice stand would make a good business investment. Some businesses also provide toppings such as fried spring rolls, chicken nuggets, and siomai. You can franchise a fried rice business at Php 200,000 or $4,160 USD.
In conclusion, putting up a food business in the Philippines is easy with so many options and ideas to choose from. Food is generally cheap in the Philippines so you can open one of these business even if you didn’t come from wealth. What you need to do now is identify a food or beverage you would like to sell, write a business plan, and identify some potential vending locations.