Food fans revel in resumption of dine-in restaurant services

Yang Yang
As Shanghai's catering industry resumed dine-in services from June 29, popular cuisines including hotpot, barbecue and crayfish have reappeared on people's dining tables.
Yang Yang

As Shanghai's catering industry resumed dine-in services from June 29, popular cuisines including hotpot, barbecue and crayfish have reappeared on people's dining tables.

At 10:30am on June 29, the Haidilao Hotpot at SCE Plaza in Minhang District welcomed its first batch of dine-in customers.

"We like hotpot. After a three-month waiting, we longed for a dinner of beef hotpot," said a customer surnamed Wu, who had made an appointment earlier in the morning and was dining with his girlfriend at the restaurant.

By 11:30am, 30 percent of the restaurant's seats had been occupied, the majority of customers being nearby white-collar workers.

"We empty each adjacent table and control the number of occupied seats within 60 percent of seat capacity. Each customer will have his or her temperature checked before entry," said a restaurant manager.

"We buy ingredients based on reservations and disinfect the place four times daily," the manager added.

At noon in Westlink Center in Xinzhuang Town, dine-in customers started to arrive.

"I prefer dine-in foods to take-away foods," said one customer.

A customer surnamed He was dining on Cantonese small hotpot with his colleagues. The four people ordered two pots and had a novel idea of pairing some ice creams with their hotpots.

"I recommend the handmade beef meatballs. They are chewy and juicy," said He. "When we heard the news about restaurants resuming dine-in services, we were immediately planning a lunch together," He said. "The Westlink Center is also doing well in pandemic prevention. The security guard checked our venue codes strictly."

A manager of the hotpot restaurant said it was preparing for the lifting of restrictions several days earlier.

"Our take-away orders were around 100 daily. We resumed our dine-in service while maintaining the take-away service," the manager said.

The store opened 18 of its 40 tables on the first day, and was able to accept 88 customers in total. Residents could make reservations through booking apps like Dianping to reduce queuing time.

At Seorae Korean BBQ in the Bailian Nanfang Shopping Mall, some residents were dining on roasted meat.

"I missed the sizzle and fragrance of a BBQ dinner, so I asked my best friend out. We hadn't seen each other for three months, so we were happy with the meet," said a customer surnamed Chen.

The BBQ store also offered free roasting service. Store assistants would help customers cook food to somehow minimize the dining time to within 1.5 hours.

As life returns to chained stores in large shopping malls, so it does at small restaurants along the streets.

A Crayfish Talk Music Restaurant in Zhuanqiao Town had been running only night sessions but opened a special noon session on June 29.

"We've reduced our seats to 70 percent and our private dining rooms now accommodate five persons compared to 10 persons before," said owner Li Yueting.

"July and August are crayfish season. The resumption of dine-in service boosts our confidence in running the business well," Li added.

To encourage consumption, some stores have distributed coupons and given discounts.

"Ours is a Halal food restaurant. Because the Halal dishes taste best when they are freshly made, we didn't offer take-away food. Now the dine-in service is resumed, we're busy with food preparation," said Ma Junhui, a hand-pulled noodle restaurant in Sincere Plaza in Minhang.

"We've benefited much from serving medical professionals and volunteers during the pandemic resurgence. So our store will be offering free meals to them till the end of July," Ma added.

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