In the past, when visiting Europe, one often saw a small Vietnamese food stall, hiding in a quiet street in the big cities of European countries. But things have been changing in recent years. Overseas Vietnamese has started to run a large chain of restaurants, which appear confident next to internationally renowned brands.
Vietnamese food trademark in Germany
An express train took us to the Central Station of the German northwestern city of Bremen, on a late afternoon in winter. I was very surprised upon seeing a restaurant with an authentic Vietnamese name called “Mai – Mai” and its symbol of a green rice paddy field. A long line of local people were waiting outside the restaurant for their turn. Inside, customers were enjoying hot Vietnamese food and there were no vacancies.
Like other Western cities, the Central Station in Bremen is always crowded and, therefore, places are very expensive to lease. Normally, only big brand-names, like Mc Donald and KFC, would appear there. Therefore, when I saw a Vietnamese restaurant there, I was both surprised and curious.
During my month of traveling across Germany, I began to recognize that Vietnamese nationals were on their way to taking a lead in the Asian food services, and were even more prominent than Chinese restaurants.
According to Vietnamese nationals in Germany, after the spontaneous and separate developments of small Vietnamese food stalls, which mushroomed in eastern Germany, Vietnamese nationals united and started to build large trademarks with chains of restaurants.
At this point, Mai–Mai and Zen Thai occupy the North; Hai Ky is seen in the South; Asian Nack (Berlin) and Asia Thu Loi (Dresden) are in the East; and Thai Co is in the West.
Success comes from serious and creative thinking
Arriving in Eastern Germany in 1988, Do Dai Duong, a 20-year-old man from Hanoi, could not speak any German. He was sent to the former Democratic Republic of Germany as a guest worker. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell down and Duong became unemployed.
Over 20 years, the Hanoian man had to work hard to earn his living. Without qualifications and skills, he had to do many jobs in his life. But during the difficult years, he learned the good working and thinking habits and disciplines of the local people. He himself found that one should always be serious at work and that business differences could lead to success.
He thought to himself: “Germans are industrial people who often save time by eating fast-foods and many have become sick of eating such fatty foods made of chicken and beef.” So, he began to think of fast-foods made from seafood and to set-up Vietnamese fast-food restaurants at railway and subway stations.
According to the Director of the Mai-Mai food chain, his restaurants now serve 32 fast-food courses. The Director confided that the secret of his food lies in the sauces that are made from ten different herbs and that his restaurants serve customers very quickly. (It takes only one minute for a customer to get his or her meal).
Mai-Mai General Director, Do Dai Duong, said that all of the staff are Vietnamese, except for the interior designer, who is German. According to Duong, with good interior designs of a restaurant that is suitable with the public taste, more people would like to come in. Therefore, the arrangement and the furniture of his restaurant are carefully considered by the owner.
Recalling several years ago, he said that Vietnamese restaurants often took the names such as,” Chinese food” or “Chinese restaurant”, because Chinese food was so famous in Germany in the past.
The situation has now changed. Vietnamese nationals, now involved in the food business in Germany, have begun to take control over Asian food distribution and food services, while promoting Vietnamese cuisine. This also promotes their culture via their restaurant chains across the country.
Translated by Hoang Bac