Eateries, cafes washed up by Covid-19 waves

By Hong Chau, Duc Minh   June 2, 2021 | 02:04 am PT
Eateries, cafes washed up by Covid-19 waves
A bun bo Hue (Hue-style beef noodle soup) eatery in Go Vap District, HCMC has a sign saying “takeaway only”. Photo by VnExpress/Hong Chau.
Rented properties vacated, employees let go, and mounting losses, food and beverage businesses are hurting from the Covid-19 waves that have hit Vietnam.

Hanh, who was running a banh canh (thick noodle soup) eatery in HCMC’s Go Vap District, recently returned the house she’d rented for the purpose even before HCMC imposed social distancing starting Monday.

"I had opened the eatery just two months ago, but I had to return the house and shift to online selling, hoping that the business can survive the pandemic," she said.

She had earlier run a food stall in District 3, but earlier Covid-19 waves had hit the business and unable to cover the high rent there, she had moved to Go Vap.

Lien, owner of a bun rieu (crab noodle soup) and hu tieu (Chinese noodles) eatery in Go Vap District, said that even before the city’s social distancing order, her revenue had already plummeted as the city asked street-side restaurants not to not serving customers on the spot starting May 22.

Ba, owner of a bun bo Hue (Hue style beef noodle soup) eatery, said she used to serve hundreds of bowls each morning before the fourth coronavirus wave started on April 27. After the city said eateries can only sell online or provide takeaways, her sales plunged to just 20 servings a day.

While Hanoi has not imposed a social distancing campaign like HCMC, it has also asked food and beverage establishments to provide takeaways or sell online starting May 25.

Linh, owner of three cafes in Hanoi, says revenues have dropped 60 percent since the start of the new outbreak despite having regular customers over the two to five years that her establishments have been running.

"Online selling can only make up for part of the loss," she said.

It is not just small businesses, big restaurants are also suffering. Hoang, who runs a restaurant in HCMC’s Binh Thanh District that covers an area of several hundred square meters, said he was losing VND35 million ($1,520) per day.

"I cannot return the rented property before the contract ends because it is a long-term contract and I have paid the rent in advance," he said.

Tuan, who owns a barbecue restaurant in Hanoi’s Long Bien District, has reduced his staff from 15 to five.

"Revenue down, ingredients more costly and staff salaries and rents still have to be paid," he said, sighing.

Mai Truong Giang, owner of bakery chain Chewy Chewy and fried chicken chain Otoke Chicken in Hanoi, said that falling revenue has also forced him to reduce the number of employees and close down some outlets.

The food and beverage entrepreneurs say they have tried numerous solutions throughout the four Covid waves including online selling, or using food delivery platforms like GrabFood, Baemin or Now, but sales continue to drop.

They have sought government support in terms of taxes and other breaks, but the government has taken no decision on mitigating the suffering of food and beverage enterprises, big and small.

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