Restaurants find ways to adapt to outbreak

Li Anlan
The food and beverage sector has been particularly hard hit by the ongoing epidemic. Many have remained closed, but some are coping with new safety protocols and procedures.
Li Anlan

China's food and beverage industry has been severely impacted by the ongoing novel coronavirus epidemic, with many restaurants, especially small and independent operators, suffering from extended closures and revenue losses.

For restaurants businesses that remained open during the extended holiday break, these faced strict protocols intended to curb the spread of contagion. These included stringent rules about wearing masks and checking the temperatures of staff.

Brut Eatery, the bistro franchise known for its brunch, opened most of its outlets during the Lunar New Year holiday amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Knowing that it's very difficult to find a restaurant to dine at during the holiday, we decided to continue serving food and drinks,” said Priscilla Young, co-founder of Brut Eatery.

Her team started implementing relevant protocols on January 20 and had all procedures in place in just two days.

Still, Brut Eatery's outlets are suffering from a significant drop in dine-in orders, with only a slight rise in deliveries.

“February 10th was the official date to resume operations. To ensure our online customers have a wider variety of choices when they return to work, we just launched three new bentos,” Young explained. “We are also beginning to cooperate on delivery services to diversify our revenue channels.”

Restaurants find ways to adapt to outbreak
Brut Eatery / Ti Gong

An employee at Brut Eatery takes the temperature of a deliverman before sending out online orders.

The restaurant's employees only work when they feel comfortable and confident. Staff are also assured that their salaries and benefits won't be affected by the epidemic.

As one of the small number of restaurants opened during the holiday, Brut Eatery also supported medical staff at various hospitals, sending an extra order free of charge upon any purchase.

Valentine’s Day was supposed to be a profitable time for restaurants and bars, especially for fine dining establishments that don’t rely on delivery orders. But as desperate times call for desperate measures, fine dining restaurants are offering delivery to survive.

Maison Papillon, the French restaurant near Jing’an Temple, is not yet opening for business but has started to do delivery orders. Chen Na, executive chef of the restaurant, now works with four more employees in the kitchen to prepare the meals.

“Every employee must pass a body temperature screening and undergo sanitization before the shift. The restaurant is sterilized regularly and we make sure that staff working in the kitchen are those who haven’t left Shanghai during the holiday,” said Chen.

Orders are delivered with cards stating the body temperatures of people who prepared, packaged and delivered their food, a practice taken by many businesses to reassure customers.

Restaurants find ways to adapt to outbreak
Maison Papillon / Ti Gong

Cards stating the temperatures of people handling food are often attached with the orders to assure customers.

It’s one thing to deliver burgers and fries, but another to bring gourmet steaks and fish to the doorstep. Chen has limited the menu to platters and main entries that can be easily vacuum sealed and reheated at home. Her signature Beef Wellington is available for home-cooking as well, as cooking instructions will arrive with the order.

Restaurants like Maison Papillon are also launching Valentine’s Day delivery packages if customers want to set up a special dinner with loved ones without leaving home or learning to cook at the last minute.

Pass Residence, a wine bar and bistro on Julu Road, now does one-hour delivery in Shanghai downtown, including a pre-sale Valentine’s Day set that includes four starters, three mains, one dessert and a bottle of red wine.

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