A Vietnamese woman has been successfully introducing Vietnamese cuisine to Emiratis in Dubai for the past five years through her Vietnamese Foodies restaurant chain.
On average, Vietnamese Foodies serves 800-1,000 customers each day across its five branches and through online orders.
Lily Hoa Nguyen opened the first Vietnamese Foodies location at Jumeirah Lake Towers in 2018.
Since then, Lily and Vietnamese Foodies have been magnets for praise and awards, including the owner being named in the Caterer Middle East’s Women in F&B Power List and Vietnamese Foodies winning the ‘Best Budget Restaurant Award’ by Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards in 2019 and 2020.
|Vietnamese foods at Vietnamese Foodies are seen in this supplied photo.|
Born in northern Vietnam and raised in Ho Chi Minh City, Lily’s love of food grew from a childhood spent cooking for her family.
In 2012, she left Vietnam for Paris. She then moved to Istanbul before settling down with her husband in Dubai in 2016.
While in Istanbul, Lily organized Vietnamese cooking classes for expats. She continued running such classes when she moved to Dubai.
Vietnamese Foodies was born after Lily’s students complained to her that they could not find a Vietnamese restaurant that compared to her cooking.
With over 70 dishes on the menu, all Vietnamese Foodies locations offer authentic, fresh, healthy, and affordable Vietnamese dishes, including pho, bun bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup), banh mi, and goi cuon (fresh spring rolls).
|Egg rolls served at Vietnamese Foodies in this supplied photo|
The menu is said to take inspiration from the culinary diversity of Hanoi, and the aromatic flavors of the food will transport diners from Dubai to the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City.
The majority of Vietnamese Foodies’ customers are Asians from countries such as South Korea, Japan, and China.
Lily Hoa Nguyen also has guests from Europe, the United States, and Australia. About ten percent of her diners are Middle Eastern.
Seventy to 80 percent of her customers are regulars.
Lily Hoa Nguyen explained that Vietnamese food is very fulfilling in terms of taste, with nothing too spicy, sweet, or sour, which makes it easy for foreigners to enjoy.
There are also plenty of Vietnamese dishes that are traditionally vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.
"These are points that I think we need to talk more about. We need to do more marketing to let people know that Vietnamese food is very trendy and good for health,” Lily Hoa Nguyen said.
|Lily Hoa Nguyen, owner of Vietnamese Foodies, is seen in this supplied photo.|
When Lily Hoa Nguyen opened her first restaurant, a meal at Vietnamese Foodies is on a par with other Vietnamese restaurants in Dubai, but 10-20 percent cheaper than restaurants of similar quality.
However, it is currently at the same level as Din Tai Fung, a world-renowned Taiwanese restaurant chain with around 200 locations globally.
“I think the biggest achievement of Vietnamese Foodies in the past two years is that I have upgraded my brand to the equivalent of brands from other countries," Nguyen said.
“When it comes to Vietnamese food, people think about it being cheap, but for me, we need to make Vietnamese food famous for its deliciousness and healthiness by having very selective dishes, beautiful places to serve food, and facilities that meet quality standards.
"That way we can increase the value of our brand and food.”
For this year’s Tet (Lunar New Year), Vietnamese Foodies are inviting customers to join a program to say thank you to its staff.
According to Vietnamese Foodies, all revenue, minus food costs, generated at the brand’s five Dubai locations on Lunar New Year’s Eve (January 21) will be shared amongst the restaurant’s 120 staff members.
|Lily Hoa Nguyen (in 'ao dai') gives lucky money, a Lunar New Year tradition, to her staff at Vietnamese Foodies in this supplied photo.|
“Lunar New Year, or Tet, as it is known in Vietnam, is a time for family and friends to gather, as well as a time to invite luck and good fortune for the year ahead,” Vietnamese Foodies explained in a press release.
This year is the fifth year that the restaurant has continued this tradition.
According to Lily Hoa Nguyen, 2023 will be Vietnamese Foodies’ biggest year to date, given the brand’s meteoric growth from one location and twenty staff members to five locations and 120 staff members.
“Our strength lies in our team,” she said.
“It is due to their hard work and dedication that we have grown so fast across Dubai with a wonderful customer base.”