Restaurateurs are faced with a stark choice – adapt or go bust.
With the Covid-19 outbreak seeing businesses shut their dining areas to ensure the virus is contained, many eateries have resorted to offering takeout or delivery.
Chann Borima, the founder of Nham24, said that his food and grocery delivery service has seen a massive increase in demand during the outbreak.
Nham24 is “refining the process and producing educational text and video training for contactless delivery”, Borima said from his office in Phnom Penh’s Chaktomuk district.
“When customers place their order, they have the option of ‘deliver in person’ or ‘contactless delivery’, with the default option being contactless.
“With this option, clients and drivers will have to keep a distance of at least two metres, so when the driver arrives, they will call the customer and then deliver the package from a safe distance.
Drew Price, owner of Carolina BBQ in Russian Market, which in little more than a year has already earned a reputation as being the go-to spot for southern comfort food, said he chose to close his dining room to ensure the safety of his employees.
“This decision was not only for our customers, but also for our employees. I couldn’t live with it on my conscience if someone passed it along to their family. A lot of the people who work here have elderly family members – and that guy has a baby,” Price said, motioning towards his grill man.
Price, like other restaurant owners, reported that he had seen a substantial increase in deliveries since the outbreak.
On March 24, he temporarily closed his dining room, hoping “to just break even until all this blows over”.
However, with lower overheads and the increase in deliveries, Price told The Post that he credited Nham24 and other delivery companies for him not only reaching his break-even point, but also record a small profit in the first week after closing Carolina BBQ’s dining room.
Borima noted that Nham24 was experiencing a shift in the trend for its services due to the outbreak.
He said that while demand from office workers remained high, home deliveries are becoming increasingly popular.
At the same time, a growing number of people were opting to pay for their goods through digital payment services, such as SmartLuy, ABA PAY and Wing, or major credit cards.
“We encourage people to pay online, but if they choose to pay with cash, the customer will then leave the money for the driver at a safe distance,” Borima said.
Some two kilometres away from Nham24’s office, Masala Dosa Street Kitchen owner Dharma Gohi said he had made the decision to employ a delivery driver to ensure the health of his patrons.
Dharma, who had previously opposed offering takeaway and deliveries as he wanted his food to be eaten fresh, is also trying to get through the outbreak by switching to online platforms.
Masala Dosa Street Kitchen is accepting cashless payments for the first time and dropping takeout orders at the gate of the restaurant’s premises near the National Museum.
“I have given paid holiday to my staff because them coming and going is risky,” he said.
Back at Nham24’s office, its founder said the homegrown delivery service was committed to protecting customers and drivers alike.
Borima added that he was recruiting tuk-tuk drivers to help those who may be feeling the pinch due to lessened demand for their services.
Nham24 has spent more than $3,000 on providing its some 400 drivers with free facemasks and hand sanitiser.
“This is not the time to be rich – this is the time to serve the community. We commit not to raise prices at all.
“At times like this, people can begin to take advantage, but that is not our philosophy,” said Borima.