A man in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta took it upon himself to quit his high-paying job and opened a budget-meal vegetarian restaurant for low-income people much to his family’s objection.
Many people, especially poor laborers, admired the decision and public-spirited act of Vo Van Tam, who gave up a job that provided him with almost VND20 million (US$860) monthly, a decent salary by local standards.
He is now running a restaurant offering meals at just VND1,000 (four U.S. cents) each.
The 36-year-old’s establishment, converted from a coffee shop, lies opposite an industrial park in Lai Vung District of Dong Thap Province, so that factory workers can conveniently frequent it.
Tam is serving the dual role of a manager and head cook and employing cooks from Ho Chi Minh City, over 140 kilometers away, as the facility has been understaffed for over a week.
They began working in the kitchen at 2:00 am every day.
The motivation behind Tam’s choice is a mixture of role model influence and empathy.
“When I knew that charitable restaurants had emerged everywhere, I told myself to set up an eatery for poor factory laborers,” Tam said.
“I used to live in a poor family and worked as a manager. That’s why I know people who worry about making a living every day really need budget meals.”
Tam spent nearly VND80 million ($3,440) out of his own pocket on opening the restaurant and now pays VND3 million ($129) in monthly rental, alongside a daily overhead cost of about VND2 million ($86).
“The restaurant serves poor people. Any calculation will lower the value of charity efforts,” he said.
“I’ll try to maintain the service and only stop when I don’t have enough money for that.”
He intends VND1,000 only as a token charge because he fears free servings may hurt customers’ self-esteem.
But he requires respect for the diners from his employees.
“Although this is a VND1,000 eatery, I always ask the staff to show enthusiasm and treat patrons as their family members,” he said.
“A VND1,000 serving doesn’t mean customer service is worth only VND1,000.”
He places a donation box right in the middle of the eatery to collect contributions to help the poverty-stricken people.
A local factory laborer, Doan Van Nhan, who has been a frequent patron of the restaurant since it was opened, said it sold delicious food and he was very satisfied with the staff’s attitude.