Two undergraduate students from the ‘Thu Duc University Village’ – a cluster of colleges in the namesake district in Ho Chi Minh City – are breathing new life into their university’s stale food scene by offering daily meals to their peers at affordable prices.
Freshman Van Dung and sophomore Thanh Dat first met at ‘Green Summer’ 2018, an annual event volunteer for local undergrads, where they were paired up to work together as chefs to raise money for various social causes.
The pair were immediately drawn to the culinary arts and, after the summer campaign ended, decided to put their newfound love to the test by creating a daily meal delivery business to keep their peers fed and pockets full.
Each day, Dat wakes up early to stake out the best ingredients at a nearby market and create a unique lunch menu based off those ingredients. He takes great pride in sharing that he almost never repeats a menu.
Meanwhile, Dung markets the day’s offerings on an assortment of Facebook pages followed by large groups of local students.
She typically posts four announcements each day and accepts the last orders by 10:00 am, giving the duo enough time to prepare the final orders before the peak lunch rush hour hits at around noon.
|Dat prepares meals before delivery. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The heat of competition
Profits have never taken center stage for Dung and Dat.
Although busy days can mean meal deliveries for up to 80 customers, daily profits typically hover around a meager VND700,000 (US$29.88).
“We use each day’s revenue to purchase ingredients for the next day. That’s the drill,” Dat said. “Obviously that means our profits never amount to much.”
Instead of focusing on cash, the two pour their love and passion into creating tasty dishes and challenging boundaries.
Their drive has led to the development of a culinary arsenal of more than 20 dishes, all of which Dat takes great pride in having developed.
“We will definitely try our hands on Korean and Japanese dishes; that is, if we have enough time,” the pair proclaimed.
“First though, we have to take care of our academic responsibilities. That is our top priority.”
A diverse selection
The ‘student village’ is no different than college neighborhoods the world over – students mingling, studying, and of course constantly on the hunt to fill their bellies.
Like Dat and Dung, senior Nguyen Hoai Thuong is also looking to capture her own piece of the meal prep pie.
By offering local students a chance to a special corn dish unique to her hometown in central Vietnam, Thoung has quickly made a name for herself as the go-to girl when munchies hit.
Though she originally had a friend help her with prepping the corn and making deliveries, she now undertakes the whole operation alone.
“There are days I have to cover more than 100km to make deliveries,” Thuong said.
“If an order is placed while I’m out, I have to rush back to make sure it’s delivered in time. Lateness means that customers can cancel their orders, no questions asked,” she shared.
|Dat delivers meals to students. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Efficiency takes priority
For undergrad Nguyen Le Anh Tuyet, ordering meals online is a real time-saver.
Bored of the limited offering at her dormitory’s canteen, Tuyet began ordering her meals when she first learned of all the affordable offerings last year.
“It is time- and cost-efficient because the meal is delivered right to your doorstep,” Tuyet revealed.
Ngo Nhat Tien, another local student, sees the new services as a way to experience new and exotic dishes.
To find out the best meal providers, Tien chooses her meals based off reviews from friends and online announcements with positive reactions.