Businesses begin to buy lunch for employees amid Covid fears

By Tat Dat   October 11, 2021 | 08:24 pm PT
Businesses begin to buy lunch for employees amid Covid fears
Kitchen staff at a catering service in HCMC's Thu Duc city preparing meals in July 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Manh Khang
Catering services are selling thousands of meals daily to businesses which have employees returning to office but do not want them to eat out amid the Covid-19 threat.

Since returning to work on Oct. 4, Bao Tram, a communications officer at a property company in Ho Chi Minh City has been getting free lunch though she has lost the lunch allowance of VND720,000 ($31.68) a month.

The lunch usually consists of rice with a main dish, vegetables, soup, and dessert with fruit. Noodles will soon be added to the menu.

She approves of the arrangement and believes it limits the risk of infection at the workplace: "I and my colleagues are afraid to go out to buy food. Even ordering delivery is still not safe amid ... the pandemic."

Since the city began to impose social distancing and travel restrictions in July, Nhi, a secretary at a construction company, has been ordering 50-55 meals for workers daily.

The company has a kitchen and workers to cook food, but Nhi found that ordering food online saved money.

Many other businesses are also ordering food for their employees.

Dieu Tran, the owner of La Mama's kitchen, a catering unit in Ho Chi Minh City, said she received orders for three meals a day for 20-50 people. Large businesses even order for 100-250 people, she said.

La Mama's customers include bankers, heads of companies and airline employees.

According to Tran, high-income customers focus more on food quality, presentation and packaging than on prices. So, in addition to taste and quality, she also focuses on aesthetics by investing in special paper boxes.

The average price of a lunch is VND58,000-89,000. La Mama's kitchen still supplied 1,400-1,500 meals a month to businesses.

Vo Minh Hieu, owner of Dai Moc kitchen, said: "This period is the best for new companies to gain experience".

In March, he got its first customer, a plastic manufacturing company that ordered nearly 1,000 meals a day, and the first month’s revenues were nearly VND392 million. Dai Moc now serves 2,000 meals a day to around 10 businesses.

Pham Dong Huy, founder and CEO of catering service platform Pito, told VnExpress that since July it has served more than 65,500 meals to 47 businesses through 14 kitchen and restaurant partners.

In the past, most companies did not order lunch for employees since they would normally eat out or bring their own food, but now the banking and pharmaceutical sectors use this service the most to feed their staff, he said.

"In the context of the new normal, when the epidemic situation has only shown positive signs but is not fully controlled, the demand for food delivery services will be higher".

Many companies have included food in employee compensation policies.

Both Huy and Hieu expect fierce competition in the catering market as companies demand lower prices.

But despite that they need to ensure their workers meet epidemic prevention requirements and their food meets hygiene standards, they added.

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