Malaysia’s F&B joints dish out RM5 meals to help low-income cope with inflation

KUALA LUMPUR – Some 15,000 food outlets around Malaysia are offering meals for RM5 (S$1.50), in an effort to help the lower-income group cope with rising food prices.

The government’s Rahmah Menu – or compassionate menu – initiative will also extend to public institutions of higher learning in the Klang Valley after Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

From mamak restaurants serving curry to Burger King and Chatime Malaysia, many are jumping on board the initiative.

Most restaurants are offering meals of rice, vegetables and a protein such as fish or chicken, with tea or bottled mineral water. Burger King offers two combos, comprising a chicken or beef burger with mineral water, at RM5 each.

While not exactly a meal, two types of milk tea are also being sold by bubble-tea chain Chatime Malaysia for RM5 each until end-February.

The government said talks are slated with fast-food chains KFC and McDonald’s next week.

Mydin Mohamed Holdings managing director Ameer Ali Mydin said 28 Mydin hypermarkets and foodcourts are serving breakfast meals such as fried mee, kway teow and nasi lemak at RM2.50 each, and lunch and dinner sets for RM4.90.

The menu changes daily, providing variety for customers. For example, on Saturdays, Mydin offers fish, rice, vegetables and bottled water, while on Sundays, it will serve a portion of chicken instead of fish.

“The response has been very good. Some 20 per cent of our customers have been opting for the Rahmah Menu. You hear of people driving or going on a motorbike, for 15km to 20km, because they can get something that they can afford,” Datuk Ameer Ali told The Straits Times.

The Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association’s (Presma) deputy president, Datuk Mohammed Mosin Abdul Razak, said many of its 4,000 members have committed to taking part in the programme.

“Frankly speaking, we are selling at a loss. But we consider it as a form of charity to ease the burden of the B40 group,” he told ST, referring to the country’s lowest income group.

Anyone can purchase the RM5 meal as long as they dine in, he added.

At the Ali Maju mamak restaurant in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Sri Rampai, Rahmah Menu meals comprise a piece of chicken or fish, rice and vegetables, with some curry gravy, and a glass of tea.

While customers may be happy with the initiative, the Rahmah Menu has hurt business for some small-scale food operators not offering these affordable meals.

Bumiputera Petty Traders Association president Rosli Sulaiman said it was impractical for small food operators to be part of the initiative, and he did not recommend it to those with a daily profit margin below RM150.

“The price of chicken now is RM9.30 per kg. If you want to implement the Rahmah Menu and your side dish is chicken, you’d have to cut it into 12 parts and that would cost you RM4 per part,” he said, as reported by the New Straits Times on Wednesday.

“If you add rice, that is RM2, and a beverage is RM1. That is already RM7. They would lose RM2,” he reasoned.

Presma’s Mr Mohammed Mosin said: “It is true that some small businesses will be affected if they totally rely on the Rahmah Menu, as prices of raw materials or ingredients are soaring and profit is zero. But for bigger entities, they can still make ends meet.”

Datuk Ameer Ali said Mydin’s Rahmah Menu meals include one-eighth of a chicken, and that his company would not compromise on the size of the protein or quality of the food. “Otherwise, it will not work,” he said.

The meals cost about RM4 and his company will still make a profit, albeit smaller than that for normal-price meals, he said.

Prices of several vegetables were reported to have gone up by more than 160 per cent in January due to poor weather and reduced production.

According to a survey by the UCSI Poll Research Centre on Saturday, 89 per cent of Malaysians aged 18 and above are concerned with the cost of living, with groceries and food prices topping their list of concerns.

College student Omar K., 18, said the Rahmah Menu makes it affordable for public college students to eat outside their campus, where a meal costs around RM9.

“These meals are good for students like me because I only get an allowance of RM400 a month for food.”

Source: The Straits Times