Eateries reluctant to reopen due to cost, policy concerns

By Vien Thong, Tat Dat, Huynh Nhi   September 10, 2021 | 03:28 am PT
Eateries reluctant to reopen due to cost, policy concerns
A person makes noodles at a stall in in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, September 9, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Eateries and coffee shops in HCMC are reluctant to reopen due to fear of rising costs and shortage of shippers, while uncertainties over policies remain.

Minh Tri, who owns a fish noodle shop in District 7, said he has not reopened because losses are likely due to rising costs even though the district has been able to contain the outbreak.

"Re-renting my old shop location would result in inevitable loss. Cooking at home is also challenging as prices of ingredients have been rising," he said, adding with shipping fees included, a bowl of noodles could cost up to VND90,000 ($3.95) and there won’t likely be a lot of buyers.

Lien, who owns a family noodle stall in Thu Duc City, reopened her shop Thursday at limited capacity. She was concerned that finding shippers would be difficult.

"I already had trouble finding shippers before when there were few customers. Now that shops start to reopen, it will be even more challenging."

Shippers in Ho Chi Minh City are still limited to shippers within their districts only.

Some other eatery owners say they would only open when everything is open.

HCMC let eateries and coffee shop resume operation Thursday with only delivery allowed. But shop owners are reluctant to reopen due to concerns of losses and complicated testing procedures.

Delivery platforms started resuming food services Thursday, but most vendors sell fresh food and other essential goods, while most eateries and beverage stores remained closed.

Some blockages eateries face include the city’s requirement that workers test Covid-19 negative every two days and that businesses register with local authorities so they could provide travel permits to staff.

Thanh, who sells beef noodles in Thu Duc City, said testing her employees twice a day would significantly increase costs and does not guarantee profits.

This is why she only sells to familiar customers nearby who contacted her on the phone the night before and come pick up their noodles in the morning.

Many food and beverage chains have chosen to observe the market before making any decisions.

Tran Thi Huu Hoa, CEO of BBQ-style restaurant chain Moc Rieu Nuong, said testing 10 employees a month would increase costs by around VND4 million.

It is difficult to arrange accommodation for employees in the restaurant, and even if she could, that would increase costs, she added.

Hoa said she also does not know what steps are needed so she could acquire travel permits for her employees.

Hoang Tien, founder of beverage chain Coffee Bike, said he will continue to observe developments over the next two weeks.

"Reopening now will surely increase the loss," he said, adding that increasing prices is not a viable option during a difficult time for the economy.

Rapid changes in regulations during the past months also make Tien reluctant to reopen. "We cannot do business in such a volatile business environment."

The market can only begin to revive when shippers are allowed to deliver inter-district, he added.

Some other food and beverage businesses say after four or five times of reopening since last year, many now do not have the capital to pick themselves up.

HCMC has recorded over 278,700 Covid-19 cases since the end of April, including over 5,500 Thursday.

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