As Ho Chi Minh City’s stringent social distancing measures drag into a third month, which now includes a daily curfew from 6pm to 6am, some F&B outlets in the city have begun offering vouchers or gift certificates as a way of generating much-needed cash flow during Vietnam’s longest and most serious shutdown yet.
These vouchers will act as a way for punters to “pay-it-forward” so to speak – a way of supporting their favourite venues without actually receiving anything in return for the time being.
With local cases of Covid-19 reported to have topped 200,000 for the first time since April 27, along with a reported daily rate currently sitting at just over 7,000 cases as of August 8, there’s no telling when, if at all, new cases will return to zero as they were back in April.
Although, there are some encouraging signs beginning to emerge as reported this week by VN Express, one of Vietnam’s most visited news sites.
Since August 1, new daily cases have dropped from 8,597 to 7,324, with seven-day daily averages falling from 7,965 to 7,324.
What happens between now and whenever it opens?Andy, co-host, The Bureau Podcast
In addition, some of Ho Chi Minh City’s 24 districts have begun rolling out long-awaited vaccination programs that have already seen neighbourhoods of District 7, for example, receiving their first shots.
For the first time in close to three months, the hospitality sector will be seeing some sort of glimmer of hope, and possibly even a timeline, for reopening.
Until such time, however, they continue the battle to survive.
With delivery services for goods deemed non-essential banned across the city, restaurants and bars are now unable to rely on deliveries for revenue, as they have been able to for much of the duration of the pandemic.
It’s not like you’re going in to put a down payment on a deposit for house or whateverMatt, host, The Bureau Podcast
In The Bureau’s latest podcast (listen at the bottom of this article), co-host Andy Tran raises his concerns about the pay-it-forward-type strategy being employed by some of the outlets.
“There’s a hole to it, right? Because it’s on the premise that the business will still be running,” he cautions. “What happens between now and whenever it opens? If the business closes down, what happens with the people who bought those tickets?”
Indeed, there appears to be a lack of clarity in regard to the terms and conditions of the vouchers, with people considering making the purchase being asked to contact the businesses for more details.
Co-host Melanie Casul asks a similar question: “What if they don’t open again? What happens to that voucher that you bought?”
Meanwhile, host Matt Cowan suggests it shouldn’t be too much of a concern given that customers would be making relatively small purchases.
“It’s not like you’re going in to put a down payment on a deposit for a house or whatever. How much is a pizza these days? VND 150,000? Depending on…you know, you might be spending $10, $20, $50 up front.”
Andy believes that the businesses involved should be clearer about their refund policies before he moves on to discuss what small businesses in hospitality should be preparing for once they reopen.
“I just feel like what they should do – once everything opens back up again – is try and reorganise the way they operate their business,” he says. “I know it’s tough right now and I totally get it, but at the same time, I think there’s an opportunity, a silver lining.”
In response, Matt asks: “But if you had some kind of mid-range cafe, bar, restaurant kind of place, how would you go from being a pre-Covid restaurant, bar, cafe kind of place doing pizzas and sort of bar food to post-Covid, you know, situation? How do you change that anyway?”
“Well, there are businesses changing it right now,” chimes in Melanie. “Instead of selling beer, one business is selling vegetables for delivery, so they’re diversifying their product line. It might not be something that they would continue after the pandemic, but we’re talking about right here, right now and everybody’s got to do what they can do.”
Rounding out the segment in the podcast, Melanie asks Matt and Andy their thoughts on other businesses “that blatantly ask for a handout and open GoFundMe accounts online.”
Listen to the full podcast for their replies and more.
Words by Matthew Cowan. Follow Matt on Instagram at @mattcowansaigon
Follow Melanie Casul on Instagram at @melaniecasul
Follow Andrew Tran on Instagram at @andrewtrandigital
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Feature photo by Van Thanh via Unsplash