Go Big or Go Home: Against All Odds, This Restaurant Opened During the Pandemic

With many businesses closing amid the pandemic, Jean Dumago-Descallar risked it all and opened a fast and casual diner: Diner 55.

Maintaining a restaurant amid the pandemic can be just as hard. There's the upkeep, overhead expenses, and other costs that are slowly piling up. And there's just not enough money coming in. Plus, with the ever-changing quarantine restrictions on dine-in guests and the limited capacity that just won't pay the bills, many restaurant owners have opted to switch to online deliveries or just close down altogether.

With all these risks and more, starting a business during the pandemic can be tricky. But the brave ones power on. And Jean Dumago-Descallar—the owner of Diner 55—did just that with the help of restaurant consultant and chef RJ Ungco.

From Humble Beginnings

It all started in March 2021. Diner 55 was a concept that both Jean and Chef RJ came up with, in the hopes of being of service to the people.

"That time, I described to him the kind of restaurant that I wanted to start," Jean shares. "I told him that when I was young, my family could not afford delicious food—especially those served by restos because we weren’t fortunate enough. Growing up poor, it was heaven for me every time my parents treated me in a carinderia that served affordable local delicious and comfort food. Until now, I still eat there every time I visit my hometown in Mindanao."

But the tables have turned, literally. Today, Jean shares that God has given her a chance to live comfortably. "Now, I get to enjoy eating in restaurants, both local and international. I [even] remember that during my first visit to the US, I discovered a place that served comfort food. It wasn’t a fast-food chain nor was it a typical restaurant, but it was a diner. This brought about my dream to be able to one day open a 'diner' too."