“What? 1,095 days and nights seems long? Well, I do hear you. But it was worth it to build the GoodTIme Burgers business on a solid foundation,” Tommy Le shrugs. So, three years on, Tommy, Duc and Long, have finally flipped their online burger delivery service into a physical restaurant, GoodTime, at 1 Nam Tràng Street, Hanoi, all the while tweaking the recipes and the offerings till they were sure the formula fit.
Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt
“For me, we had to take time – a period which turned into three years – to consider two things: products and culture,” Duc begins.
People Would Immediately Get It
“So, for products we wanted to bring a new flavor and style of burger to Vietnamese customers,” Duc adds.
The GoodTime burgers break perfectly into two, making them easy to share, like any really good time, and there’s a Vietnamese flavor profile woven into each juicy burger, including lots of Vietnamese spices, Hoi An chili sauce, and sour pickled mango with fish sauce.”
“And for culture, when people thought of us, we wanted them to think positive things, and connect us to music, sports and other cultural expressions. Then, we could open a store and people would immediately get it.”
“Right,” Long agrees. “And, for me, a steady pace of evolving the brand made the most sense. There’s so many elements to it (ones that we had to learn) – like warehousing and stock management, sourcing ingredients, and especially managing our people. Three years ago I didn’t know anything. Then, me and Duc would be at his house experimenting and later at our delivery kitchen in Pham Ngu Lao where we hired our first employees. And now we’re launching with knowledge we never dreamed we’d have and with a loyal base of customers.”
Never Stop Believing
“Did we ever think about quitting? Never. Looking back now, the start was definitely the hardest. We had to ride out the first few months without any revenue. I guess we had a vision that I think we all believed in.”
“I remember that too. There was just a trickle of orders coming in. Some days there were zero. But I never stopped believing,” Long agrees.
“Yeah, to be honest I remember the tough times even before those tough times,” Duc laughs. He’d imagined a homegrown Vietnamese burger brand while living in Korea, and set out to build it once he got back. “I saw burgers booming there. But they weren’t blowing up here…yet. All I knew is that I wanted to make burgers and to have fun doing it. The reality was that when I got back, I had no one around – I think that lasted for five months. Having no one to bounce ideas off and to share things with is tough. Then we grew. And Tommy and Long joined. The word of mouth grew, and GoodTime felt like a small spark that was catching fire,” Duc beams.
“And, three years later we found this place,” Tommy says, looking around. “For me, it wasn’t the perfect location. But taking the old building meant we could save some money on rent. Still, there was a lot of work to do.”
“It must have been six months until we found this location, asking agents to search and with us three looking around all the time,” Long recalls.
“Then the work took us another six months!” Duc adds. “This building used to be an old French house – very Hanoian. We looked past its flaws and saw something beautiful. We liked the way we could play around with old and new, the building and the brand. It also expressed something about GoodTime: cultural connection, creativity and respect and preservation.”
Like The Brand The GoodTime Building Is A Mix Of Vietnamese And Western Culture
There’s a balcony outside, lots of brickwork, a bar counter and even a disco ball outside the bathrooms.
“I like the high ceilings on this old French building,” Long smiles. “And, because of its age, it has these 40 cm thick walls which protect against the cold in the Hanoi winter, and large windows, which let in lots of light. And, I agree with Duc. It fitted us well – we’re bringing Western burgers to Vietnamese consumers and the building is a mix of Vietnamese and Western culture too.”
“For me, I wouldn’t single out any element as my favorite,” Tommy says. “The biggest success was the bigger project of breathing life into the entire building. And, once we’d done that, seeing customers, six months on, feeling comfortable in the space.”
“I do like to chill outside though,” Duc admits. “Leaning on the railing and feeling the cool breeze. I like the bathrooms too. Personified, GoodTime can be a bit of an introvert, so the space has lots of corners – the bathroom included. Besides the disco ball, there’s a board where you can privately write down your feelings – whether you’re happy or sad.”
Having A GoodTime (Burger)
“I’m more of a prop-up-the-bar kind of person,” Tommy interjects. There you’ll usually find him with a gin and tonic or a cocktail and chatting to the bartender. “At GoodTime, we do really talk to you (and each other),” he promises.
“I like the tables by the windows,” Long decides. “And I’d order our Original GoodTime Burger with some Dream Fries on the side.”
“You know October is the best time of year in Hanoi,” Duc reminds them. “So, right now, for me, it’s definitely chilling outside, with an Anchay Burger, some regular fries and a ton of ketchup, and maybe some Dream Fries too.”
Going To Sleep With A Smile On Your Face
They’re content like that for now. Eating their own GoodTime burgers. Enjoying the Hanoi autumn. “But, it would be nice to expand into Asia,” Long says with a twinkle in his eye. “Maybe the Philippines or Singapore…”
“Or maybe we could just become one of the top three fast food brands in Vietnam in the next three years,” Duc joins in, wishfully.
“But you know what?” Tommy asks. “What is a good time? It’s just going to sleep with a smile on your face.”