Since coming back to Vietnam, I have always been a big fan of Sunkat's Burger, with its big juicy made-to-order burgers, crispy rosemary garlic fries and craft beers. It's also my privilege to hang out with Sunkat's Burger owner, Kim Hai, a lot before Covid-19 hit Vietnam. Let's have a quick chat with him today to find out how a food business could practise sustainability without sacrificing financially!
Tram Anh: Hi anh, so nice to have the chance to talk to you again! It has been a crazy year for all restaurant owners. For the first question, can you briefly introduce yourself and your business, Sunkat’s Burgers?
Kim Hai: I was born in a family that first launched “Kem Cốc”, the French ice cream in glass under Zéphyr brand in Cầu Gỗ street, Hanoi since 1936. Being inspired by family tradition, I was always interested in international culinary Industries and introducing those fancy cuisines to Vietnam. I have a friend, who is a Japanese sushi master and he had worked in the US for 6 years and he is the founder of the most famous Burger joints in Danang. He helped me to setup SunKat’s Burgers in 2016. SunKat’s Burgers is an American creative burger restaurant with consistent Japanese quality commitment.
Tram Anh: Have you ever heard about sustainability or sustainable development? Do you think you are practising it in your daily life?
Kim Hai: Yes, I do. During my MBA course, I studied a subject name “Business Ethics” that discussed deeply about sustainability and I explained the sustainable development concept to all of SunKat’s team. Our sustainable practices started by protecting environment, we eliminate most of single use plastic, watering plants by potatoes washing mud, collecting air conditioners water to spray on roof during summer, classifying recyclable trash… and developing more vegan options. To be a better community member, we have sponsored for charity activities, coordinated Help Hanoi homeless, Blue Dragon, Bread & Smiles…
Tram Anh: How hard do you think it is to apply sustainability in business, especially food business like yours?
Kim Hai: The food business is fierce competition, especially in Hanoi due to industry’s low entry barriers. We have witnessed new players appeared and gone during the last 5 years and ourselves also faced a lot of challenges since Covid pandemic came. Maintaining the same menu price while keep improving quality for the last five years was a tough job for us since the payroll almost doubled, cost of goods and overhead expenses increased every year. Our core competency is minimizing food waste, “one VND we save is one VND we earn”, strengthen daily lean purchasing activities. Moreover, sustainable human resource is a key element in our operation, stability in labor force leads to our sustainable development by consistent customers’ satisfaction. Applying sustainable development in the circumstances of external factors keep changing without comproming either lower quality or higher selling price is hard issue for anyone, especially during pandemic period.
Tram Anh: Are you aware of how much waste/environmental effects that your business is generating everyday? Do you have any plans to change it in the future?
Kim Hai: We are fully aware the potential waste of energy, excess purchasing food, single use plastic wares… that firstly will harm our own sustainability and at the same time will effect the surrounding environment. We have been applying 5R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose, Rethink) in purchasing, classifying waste. For example, by spraying recycled water on roof to save air-conditioning electricity, equipping all eco-friendly electric appliances, collecting recyclable trash to sell and using it for employees welfare… And we are planning to install solar energy system for our restaurant in the coming time after renting contract renewal.
Tram Anh: For the last question, I would like to ask you about what you want to see in terms of government support or policy for businessmen like you to integrate more sustainable practices in daily operation?
Kim Hai: Firstly, we want to have a fair competition. The physical restaurants like us must comply a lot of financial, labor codes and safety conditions while unregistered virtually home kitchens are free of any government control. Secondly, we propose government or even non governmental organizations can audit and certify “Green/Eco Business” for restaurants that committed to sustainable development to increase public awareness of this radical issue. Thirdly, during this unpredictable lockdowns, when restaurants are struggling to survive, I propose the government prepare a post-pandemic recovery plan for F&B industry as tax favors, allow extending daily business time to late night, granting health care privileges for F&B labor force…
Tram Anh: Thank you so much for the interview, I have learnt so much more about sustainability from the view of a restaurant owner. I wish the best for you and Sunkat's Burger and can't wait to dine in at your restaurant soon!
I hope you all enjoy the interview. Personally, it's important to understand how people from different sectors of life think about sustainability, as we are all interconnected and the action of one person strongly affects the other.