F&B firms prepare for possible second round of social distancing

Though local F&B businesses don't want social distancing to return in August, the experiences they had in April are helping them prepare.

f&b firms prepare for possible second round of social distancing hinh 0
Owner of Tuong An Coffee earns from selling rice online.

Phung Ngoc Bich, owner of Tuong An Coffee on Hanoi's Doi Can Street, used to pay VND20 million (US$857) per month to rent two shops to sell coffee and juice. The pandemic meant she was receiving fewer and fewer customers, making the rent unaffordable, so Bich scaled back and let go of the bigger premises and kept the smaller one of less than 10sq.m.

Bich started selling rice and food via delivery during the first wave of the pandemic and it became a huge success.

She told Vietnam News: “I sell about more than 100 dishes per day, mostly at lunchtime. As for the smaller space and fewer customers due to the pandemic, I turned my shop to a takeaway. I save on both rent and staff.”

Though the pandemic and social distancing brought Bich a new kind of business, she is not looking forward to the possible return of social distancing after the resurgence of the virus.

Her feelings are shared throughout the F&B business community, which has been plunged into uncertainty in recent days.

89's Presso, a beverage and snack shop in District 1, HCM City, has just recovered to half of its business before the new outbreak.

Talking to the local media, an 89's Presso representative said: "We are quite worried because the business activities have just been reopened shortly."

Hoang Tung, CEO of Pizza Home, who gained a reputation for selling special items for the pandemic such as pink pizza to support dragon fruit growers, said: “It is likely that this industry will face the next crisis due to the new wave of COVID-19,” however, the CEO saw positive sides.

Tung said as purchasing power and trust in the Government's anti-pandemic efforts were strong, the economy recovered quickly, adding: "I think the businesses that have survived up to now have good strength and accumulation. The difficulties that the F&B industry has overcome will help firms find ways to overcome the next storm.”

According to the CEO, he plans to cut ineffective selling points, reduce production costs and rent rates, and increase sales through applications and new products, tailored to people's needs.

Similar models are being used across the sector.

Nam Khuat, owner of Kin Dee - Thai Gastropub in District 1, HCM City told local media: “If the social distancing resumes, we will renegotiate the rent, reduce the number of full-time staff and reduce the number of part-time employees and move to a delivery model with menus to fit new needs and ensure quality takeaway."

"Both employees and customers are accustomed to the pandemic so it's easier for the attitude of shopping from home. With a new situation, we will activate the preventive steps immediately," he said.

Besides finding ways to get by, many F&B owners said they needed the support of management authorities.

Nguyen Thanh Hang, owner of Hang Coffee on the capital's Quan Thanh Street told Vietnam News: “They should announce the social distancing, if any, early so that we can prepare our business schedule.”

Since the first wave of the virus, Hang has been serving more online customers. She said: “I opened the café as I love meeting people and talking to my customers but now there is no other choice.”

Like most other F&B business owners, Hang knew the risk of spreading the virus is huge with direct contact. “I will try my best to serve my customers with distancing and waiting for the virus to be controlled.”

VNS/VNA