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Early mover innovates to deliver vacuum sealed meals to ISO customers


When COVID-19 panicked shoppers first plundered supermarket aisles, Sydney-based restaurant The Rice Den quickly recognised the problem and developed a ready-made-meal product for between $6 and $14 for its isolated customers. 

Always looking to innovate


Based at St Leonards on Sydney’s Lower North Shore, The Rice Den serves modern Cantonese food. The restaurant shifted to its new location in 2015 from bustling Chatswood, where it operated as a small hole-in-the-wall shop.


Primarily a dine-in business, The Rice Den was forced to close its dining room due to Government COVID-19 restrictions. The restaurant has continued to operate as a takeaway-only service using existing staff as delivery drivers. “We introduced delivery to our surrounding suburbs in order to cater to our customers that prefer to limit how much they leave the house,” said owner, Roy Chan. 


“By using our staff as drivers, customers can see a familiar face, and we don’t run ourselves into the ground with delivery services taking a large cut.”


Looking after family and friends


While the delivery service has cleverly kept the restaurant operating and its staff gainfully employed, the genuine Eureka moment came with the introduction of The Rice Den’s Ready-Made-Meals


In March, Chan recognised his employees were finding it difficult to buy groceries from their local supermarkets. “After work, our staff were going to Coles, Woolies or Aldi and there was nothing for them,” Chan said. “So, we created vacuum-sealed meals along with instructions for customers to reheat at home.” 


The Rice Den now offers restaurant-quality meals including satay chicken, black bean beef and a range of vegetarian dishes to its isolated customers. With the sealed meals priced between $6 and $14, it’s hardly surprising that they’re a hit. Chan continues, “It’s not about profit – we priced the meals at the lowest price possible so that we can continually employ our staff and give back to our local community and customers.


“Our hope is that everyone stays safe and healthy during this time so that we can beat this pandemic and open our dining room doors once this is over.”


Roy Chan’s advice to business owners navigating through the troubled waters of COVID-19:


  1. Stick to your knitting: Stay positive, stay active, and keep to what you’re good at. 
  2. Collaborate with your stakeholders: Work with your landlords, supply chain, and staff, to streamline your business.
  3. Reassign staff: Move employees to where their help is needed so you can keep your team employed as they are valuable. 
  4. Innovate to keep your business afloat: Developing new ideas and products is now more critical than ever due to COVID-19 as you want to keep your business at the forefront and not fall behind.


To check out the menu and the readymade meals at The Rice Den, visit