He had never considered convenience stores to be a good place to have lunch until he started working for a graphic design company in Phu My Hung urban area, HCMC District 7.
He says, “There are only a few street vendors in this area. If I want to eat good food at an affordable price, I have to ride a motorcycle for a kilometer to get to a restaurant.”
On the other hand, it only takes him a few minutes to reach the convenience store below his office, and in addition, he can even pre-order his lunch on the store’s app 30 minutes before his break to save time.
Customers at a convenience store in Pham Ngoc Thach Street, HCMC District 1, September 5, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Tam
Since the start of this year, as the Covid-19 outbreak subsided and normal life resumed, the rate of people who share the same routines as Hiep has increased rapidly.
Before the pandemic, most office workers in central HCMC neighborhoods ate lunch in restaurants before heading to refreshments and cafes to catch up with colleagues. Others brought food from home and ate directly at their desk.
Hiep adds, “Convenience stores have lots of affordable dining options. Plus, it’s fresh and clean and eating lunch here saves me time.”
In fact, the hours between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. are the busiest for many convenience stores across the city, with about 300 people visiting each at lunchtime and 50 to 100 customers eating on site.
Customers take a lunch break in the outdoor seating area of a convenience store in HCMC. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Tam
A vendor at a store on Dinh Tien Hoang Street in District 1 said the lunchtime crowd had doubled or tripled since the start of this year.
“Last year, our store imported around VND2 million ($84) worth of goods every day, but this number has increased to VND8-10 million in recent months.”
The majority of customers at a store on Mac Dinh Chi Street in District 1 are office workers and students who are there for lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., according to the store manager, and most are there for 30 at 60 minutes.
“It is extremely busy on weekdays. The normal staff of three has been increased to five due to the large number of customers arriving.”
Convenience store staff are usually ready in advance to quickly serve customers during lunch.
A saleswoman at a store on Pham Ngoc Thach Street says: “We are making sure that the food sections are well stocked and that the ingredients needed to prepare food in the store are in place to cope with the large number of people coming. During lunch. There are days when we can’t have lunch before 2 p.m.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade reports that the number of convenience store chains has increased sharply in recent years. At the end of last year, there were more than 3,000 stores in the country, and the number is expected to grow rapidly.
Eating in convenience stores is a popular trend that should grow.
Young people are increasingly frequenting these stores, mainly because of the air conditioning but also to eat there. Many also visit them for the Wifi.
In some Asian countries, where the trend first emerged, it has taken hold as “lunch inflation,” a cost-cutting method adopted by office workers.
According ReutersSouth Korean convenience store chain GS25 reported an increase of more than 30% in instant meal sales in January-May compared to the previous year.
It responded to the high demand for office meal delivery by introducing a new meal subscription service for office workers, including discounts and home delivery.
Peers such as CU and 7-Eleven have seen similar increases in demand, while Emart24 has seen a 50% increase in lunch box sales in areas with a large number of offices, according to Reuters.
Instead of having lunch at the canteen in the scorching heat, Huynh Quang Bao Phuc, 15, a student at Nguyen Khuyen High School, chose a convenience store near the school for her lunch break. He says he doesn’t eat much at the canteen because there are more options to choose from at the convenience store.
“I like to take a lunch break at the convenience store because it’s air-conditioned and has Wifi. I can also take a nap on a chair before going back to class.”
Pham Loi Ngoc Vy (R) frequently spends his lunch breaks at convenience stores. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Tam
Pham Loi Ngoc Vy, a student at the HCMC Open University, says she and her friends chose to have lunch at a nearby convenience store rather than buy from street vendors as they did before for fear of being stolen and getting wet during the rainy season.
“It’s as convenient as the name suggests. Buying food here gives me more confidence in food safety. However, there are no electrical outlets in convenience stores, so I can’t sit still too long.”
Le Anh Tu, a senior lecturer in the faculty of public relations and communication at Van Lang University, explained this change in lifestyle by saying that some workplaces do not have the necessary facilities or equipment. so that office workers take a lunch break, and others do not let them eat. at their office, making convenience stores a great place for a quick lunch.
Also, many office workers are still struggling to make ends meet after Covid-19, and cost is a major factor, he adds.