The closing of KOTO on Van Mieu’s announcement
To our valued Partners, Sponsors and Friends,
I hope my message finds you safe and well, wherever you may be.
We entered 2020 with excitement and ready to achieve big dreams, goals and planning for the new decade ahead. Like most businesses around the world, the last few months at KOTO have been incredibly challenging. As a not-for-profit social enterprise, we have had no choice but to remain resilient whilst battling COVID-19. We have done this all whilst staying true to our mission, to provide disadvantaged and at-risk youth with a safe place to live, study and transform their lives.
KOTO Restaurant on Van Mieu has been in operation for 21 years now. We started this journey as a small sandwich shop around the corner with just nine street kids. This has laid the foundation for the KOTO you know today. In all honesty, we probably made terrible sandwiches but we built a family from its humble beginnings to become a 200 seating capacity restaurant that has served thousands of meals to tourists visiting Vietnam, and the many locals enjoying our good food.
It’s been a place that has shared smiles, values, lessons and made over 1,000 dreams come true. Many of those trainees are now hospitality professionals, general managers of hotels or they have returned to KOTO to help train future trainees. We even have some social entrepreneurs! Also, we have become a strategic partner with Box Hill Institute in Australia meaning all our trainees graduate with a Cert III in the Hospitality industry. KOTO is unlike any other “normal” restaurants you may have dined in. We have proudly hosted the former President of America, Bill Clinton, the former Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, European Heads of State, alongside many diplomats, VIPs and guests from around the world.
KOTO on Van Mieu has also delivered some memorable stories on our trainee’s transformations. A few I note include the story of a hill tribe girl who saw a blender for the first time in our bar and is now a fully-fledged, internationally accredited bartender, the boy who spoke no English and is now a silver-service waiter in a five star hotel, and a trainee who came from a poor province in the Central Highlands, who is now a chef at the renowned Star City in Sydney and has earned his Australian citizenship. These are only a handful of the many incredible stories from KOTO alumni.
To every single visitor and supporter who has been to our restaurant, whether you have been here for a meal, purchased a little gift from our dream shop or have donated through our Dream Builder program, please know that your support has made an incredible impact on the lives of many KOTO graduates and trainees who have had the privilege to serve you.
No words can ever describe how hard it is to say goodbye, but I regretfully have to share with you, KOTO on Van Mieu is officially closing on the 11th of August 2020 after 21 very successful years. COVID-19 has hit us hard. 90% of our patronage was from the international tourism sector. Since the future of the tourism industry now hangs in the balance, it’s not a viable strategy for an organisation the size of KOTO to “sit and wait it out”. We have lives who depend on KOTO to remain in operation. Some of the reasons as to why we have taken this heavy-hearted decision is that quite simply, financially, it’s not viable for KOTO to continue leasing the very costly current location. Lack of patronage at the restaurant will also severely impact on our ability to deliver training and being a social enterprise, it’s unsustainable.
However, the next few months will see KOTO move to a new location, and we are creating a new business model/designs and concept. The continuation of our “business” operations means we can still ensure our training program is maintained, our current trainees will be accommodated, fed and cared for under our foundation team and our staff are employed.
Please stay tuned and watch this space on our new location announcement. In the meantime, we hope you will consider supporting KOTO by being one of the first to “Buy a Brick – Build a new HOME” for our new restaurant. The funds will go towards building KOTO new home for the trainees but also you when you come and dine there. Our mission has not changed and we will continue to fight for the future of our trainees and their rights to an incredible future.
On behalf of KOTO, I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single one of you for your amazing continued support, without it we wouldn’t be able to be the KOTO that we are today.
I look forward to welcoming you to our new HOME soon.
“I ask not for a lighter burden, but broader shoulders”. – Jewish proverb
Jimmy Pham – KOTO Founder & Executive Chairman
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