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Vietnam’s first McDonalds serves 400,000 customers in a month

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Vietnam’s largest city Ho Chi Minh attracts thousands of adventurous travelers each year who come specially to experience the French colonial architecture, life on the bustling Saigon river and – of course – the world-famous cuisine.

But now there is a surprising new addition to Ho Chi Minh’s culinary offerings: McDonald’s.

America’s most famous fast food joint set up its first outlet in Vietnam last month and since then has served 40,000 hungry customers who ate 61,980 Big Macs, exceeding expectations manifold.

The franchisee is owned by the country’s Prime Minister’s son-in-law Henry Nguyen, who spent time as a teenager flipping burgers in the USA. He had always dream of having a McDonald’s outlet in his own country.
Vietnam’s First Ever McDonald’s
Within 24 hours of it’s opening on 8 Feb, it served almost 22,500 customers

For many Vietnamese, it’s a special treat to bring the family to such a place since the average wage in Vietnam is about US$150 a month as against the cost of a Big Mac (US$2.82) and a Value Meal ( US$3.99).

‘Last year Vietnam relaxed its investment restrictions, and since then it has seen big brands like Burger King and Starbucks come into Vietnam.

Starbucks was a big deal on its opening weekend, but nothing compared to this,’ said British photographer Neil Massey.

McDonald’s is the latest one into the communist country following in the footsteps of Starbucks, Subway, Burger King and KFC.

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Beyond mommy guilt: Is Canada’s growing meal-kit mania here to stay?

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TORONTO — Celebrities like Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey, and NSync’s Lance Bass are now in the meal kit business, and for some that’s a sure sign the online subscription-based food startup phenomenon has hit its peak.

A plethora of the new e-commerce meal companies have popped up in Canada and the U.S. in the last couple of years, and subscribers have been joining the services in droves.

While the biggest player in the space, New York-based Blue Apron, does not operate in this country, a number of meal kit services are available locally and nationally for Canadians seeking a quick meal fix: Chef’s Plate, Goodfood, MissFresh, The Jolly Table, Cook It, Kuisto, Fresh City Farms, One Kitchen, Dinnerlicious, Fresh Prep and Germany’s Hello Fresh, to name a few.

There’s even a subscription-based startup for breakfasts, Montreal-based Oatbox, which delivers granolas, ‘overnight’ oats and granola bars to customers.

The convenience factor is undeniable. For about $10 to $13 per meal, customers receive a box of chilled, portioned food and recipes for an easy meal assembly.

The whole industry in the U.S. was founded on mommy guilt

Home chefs are able to cook dishes that evoke an au courant restaurant menu in less than half an hour: lentil mushroom tacos with jicama carrot slaw; mint sumac chicken with sautéed snap peas and carrot, parsnip and cucumber salad; Cajun tilapia over quinoa with a corn and tomato succotash.

But two recent initial public offerings by meal kit companies — including Blue Apron, the biggest player in the United States and Montreal-based Goodfood Market Inc. — ended up looking like a failed soufflé. Skeptics have drawn parallels between the spate of subscription startups and the faddish dot-com failures of the early 2000s.

Indeed, on Friday, Blue Apron announced it is cutting almost a quarter of its staff as it struggles to become a profitable business.

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‘Toronto’ New Restaurant is a Paradise for Bao Lovers

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This cleverly named restaurant makes a dizzying array of bao and banh mi, from pork belly to Japanese fried chicken. There’s also banh mi and a host of Asian-inspired appetizers like Bulgogi Kimchi Fries that’ll have you eating until you’re stuffed.

Read my profile of It’s a Bao Time in the restaurants section.

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‘Toronto’ At This Toronto Cafe you Can PWYC for Coffee

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One of Toronto’s quirkiest cafes has just become a bit more “kooky” in the words of its founder Liz Haines. Formerly called the Intergalactic Travel Authority, the espresso bar was designed to support Story Planet, a charity modelled after Dave Egger’s 826 Valencia, which provides writing and communication workshops for kids from age six to 18.

Operated as a social enterprise, the Intergalactic Space Authority was never about making tons of money, but the cafe was the economic engine that made running Story Planet out of a storefront space possible. Now, just over three years since it opened, the concept has proven insufficient to fund the operation.

Rather than close up shop, Haines has decided to try something unconventional. “While our social enterprise (formerly known as the ITA) has been an amazing community hub, it has not been financially viable. We have let the espresso machine go and are operating it, for the next little while, as a pay-what-you-can, serve-yourself community lounge,” she notes.

Aside from the loss of the espresso machine, the space remains the same as before, and there’s still drip coffee on offer. The space has always been available to rent ($30 an hour), so the new model isn’t radically different than before, but the notion of a PWYC cafe and lounge is intriguing.

“We’ve been surprised by the incredibly warm reception to this slightly kooky idea,” Haines writes in a blog post.

It will, however, need plenty of support to remain viable. Story Planet is trying out the concept for the month of April, after which time it will decide whether to keep the storefront space at 1165 Bloor St. West or close up shop and continue its programming in schools and community centres.

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