The trolleys of food and coffee vendors can be readily found on the street these days.
Trolleys full of drinks and fast food are becoming an increasingly common sight on the streets of Vietnam’s major cities, bringing their “shop” to customers rather than the other way around.
From 6am three waiters dressed in orange uniforms sell “Ma Hai” fried fish sandwiches along To Hien Thanh Street in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 10. The sandwiches sell for VND10,000 each ($0.50), with one waiter welcoming customers and taking their order, one making the sandwich, which takes just ten seconds, and one handing the sandwich to the customer.
There are many similar mobile food shops, such as Ma Nam, Ma Tam, and Vung Tau fried fish (Cha Ca Vung Tau). Some are even part of chains, like Five Stars and 1 Phut 30 Giay (One Minute 30 Seconds).
Mr. Thanh Cao, Head of Marketing at 1 Phut 30 Giay, said it has 130 separate vendors, of which 40 per cent are franchises, primarily in big cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, and Binh Duong. Their target customers are students, so their trolleys are mostly located near schools. A combo with food and drink is VND17,000, with a choice of a hamburger, a sandwich, or a hot dog.
“If we focused on selling food all day we couldn’t compete with brands like KFC or McDonald’s, so we only operate from 5am to 10am,” Mr. Cao was quoted as saying. He also said the space they take up on the street is rented.
Besides fast food, mobile coffee shops are also becoming more familiar among customers. Most are students, workers and office staff. It’s affordability that makes this type of service popular, as their coffee is much cheaper than in a café. People can enjoy their drink on the footpath, a street corner, a park or anywhere else, while paying just VND10,000 ($0.50) to VND13,000 ($0.60) per cup, or about one-quarter of the price of Highland Coffee’s takeaway and one-eighth of the price of a Starbucks’ takeaway. “Though the quality differs, the lower price is attractive,” said one mobile coffee customer.
Mr. Hoang Anh Tuan, an architect working in Hanoi, said the fact it’s delivered is the great thing about mobile coffee. In the heat of the day no one wants to go out for coffee, so mobile coffee is much more convenient. “My colleagues and I have been using the service since it started, buying a cup and enjoying it at the office,” he said.
Coffee powder is quite cheap in Vietnam, at VND100,000 ($4.60) a kilo, which makes about 50 cups. By selling them for VND10,000 a cup, vendors are able to make a profit. Mr. Nguyen Huu Quang, a vendor, said he usually makes a profit of VND300,000 ($13.80) to VND500,000 ($23) a day, or from VND10 million ($460) to 15 million ($690) a month. In a good month he can make three or four times what he would working as a security guard or manual laborer, or even double a new university graduate.
Despite the convenience, however, there can be no guarantee over health and hygiene. Customers need to ask about product origin and how it’s made, or only buy from a vendor they’re familiar with.
“Selling food in Vietnam presents many opportunities,” Mr. Nguyen Xuan Nhat Huy, a marketing expert, was quoted as saying. “But there are many hidden risks, especially the laws on using street space and taxes.” The potential, though, outweighs the risks.