Would Menu Rahmah face the same fate as Menu 1Malaysia?

Many predict that the initiative is not sustainable for the long run since it is not subsidised by the govt 


THE Menu Rahmah initiative, which offers meals at RM5 and below to help reduce the cost of living, has received mixed reactions from retailers and restaurant operators. 

While the initiative is seen as a timely effort to help the hardcore poor by providing lunch or dinner meals at an affordable price, many predict that Menu Rahmah is not sustainable in the long run since the initiative is not subsidised by the government. 

The Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Ministry (KPDN) introduced the Menu Rahmah with zero budget from the government, thus, all the participants agreed to bear the overall costs for the meals as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR). 

Sahabat Tomyam Prihatin SeMalaysia adviser Che Mamad Che Mod said that the association’s participation in Menu Rahmah is in response to the government’s calls to help those affected by the rising cost of living. 

“In terms of the cost for Menu Rahmah, we do lose and make no profit, but we do it on the basis of infaq (voluntary alms giving) and to serve the community who really need it,” Che Mamad told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR). 

Big families can now enjoy dining out at affordable prices without worrying about the bill if they order Menu Rahmah, says Che Mamad

Since Menu Rahmah was first introduced, he said the initiative has met the target to help his customers from the low-income groups, such as those from the bottom 40% income group (B40) and people who are affected by the high cost of living. 

“We see that big families can now enjoy dining out at affordable prices and they do not need to worry about the bill if they order Menu Rahmah,” he said. 

The association did not set any timeline to participate in the initiative and will continue to offer Menu Rahmah for a longer period. 

“We are going to do this for a longer time and we do not set any limits such as three to four months. We will do it as long as it is needed,” he said. 

According to Che Mamad, KPDN launched the initiative to help the needy during this uncertain economic situation, thus, Menu Rahmah will be discarded once the economy recovers. 

Besides, he said that Sahabat Tomyam vendors are given flexibility to offer Menu Rahmah in any way as long as it is priced at RM5 and below. 

“We do not force our members to take part in this programme. If they cannot afford to offer Menu Rahmah on a daily basis, that is their choice and they can do however they want to,” he said. 

There are about 470 Sahabat Tomyam vendors across Peninsular Malaysia, with 50 operators in Klang Valley, 150 in Perak, 100 in Pahang and 60 in Terengganu. 

Meanwhile, Aeon Big (M) Sdn Bhd is one of the hypermarkets that is committed to taking part in KPDN’s Payung Rahmah initiative. 

The retailer recently launched its Rahmah programme, which includes Menu Rahmah, Jualan Rahmah, Bakul Rahmah and Pakej Rahmah, in supporting the government’s intention. 

According to Sheikh Farouk,
as a hypermarket, Aeon Big has the opportunity to offer a wide range of Rahmah Packages for its customers (Pic by Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

MD Sheikh Farouk Sheikh Mohamed viewed the initiative as beneficial for businesses and consumers although it is not subsidised by the government. 

“This is the best initiative to share the sustenance as it is a win-win situation that caters to both the consumers and Aeon Big,” Sheikh Farouk told TMR. 

Officially launched on Feb 21, Aeon Big said that it will offer its first phase of Menu Rahmah within three months until May 2023. 

“The three-month basis is due to the initial agreement with KPDN, to provide opportunities and rotation to other retailers in offering Menu Rahmah,” he said. 

This is not the first time Aeon Big has taken such an initiative. Last year, it organised the “Jimat Poket” initiative, offering two affordable packages consisting of essential items for customers to choose from. 

During the pandemic, Aeon Big together with its sibling company Aeon Co, introduced “Kotak Ceria” by offering staple items at affordable prices. 

“As a hypermarket, we have the opportunity to offer a wide range of Rahmah Packages, besides Menu Rahmah for our customers,” he said. 

On the other hand, Persatuan Pengusaha Restoran India Malaysia (Primas) president J Suresh said he could not guarantee the vendors will continue offering Menu Rahmah in the long run if costs for raw materials increase. 

“I cannot think of how long we can sustain, but I believe it cannot be too long because we are actually not making money or gaining more profit from this programme,” he said. 

Suresh says there is no guarantee that vendors will continue offering Menu Rahmah in the long run if costs for raw materials increase (pic: Primas’ Facebook)

Moreover, the supply shortage of chicken, egg and oil will also make offering the Menu Rahmah a burden to vendors. 

“If the shortage issues persist, we have no choice but to stop (offering Menu Rahmah),” he said. 

However, he said that the vendors may continue to participate in the initiative if the government could offer any sort of incentives or subsidies to bear some of the cost. 

Recently, Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd, which is one of the first hypermarkets to take part in the Menu Rahmah programme, said that it will also review its cost structure after three months to ensure its sustainability. 

As had been reported, Mydin said that it would only be able to maintain the price if the input price remains the same. 

Menu Rahmah is not the first initiative that had been introduced with the aim to provide more affordable meals. 

Back in 2011, KPDN during Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak’s administration had introduced Menu Rakyat 1Malaysia (MR1M), which also aimed at reducing the burden of the people dealing with soaring prices. 

The programme was considered as an ambitious initiative and attracted more than 1,000 outlets in its first two months. 

Many eateries offered meals as cheap as RM2. However, they started to take out the MR1M from their menu as they could not survive after one year due to the rising prices of raw materials. 

The failure of MR1M was also attributable to the implementation of GST during that time. 

With the GST, many vendors reported that their businesses suffered decline between 10% and 30%, making it even more difficult to maintain the quality of food at such a low price. 

The businesses at the time had asked for additional incentives from the government to continue the cheap meal sets but to no avail. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition