Diners prefer take-away on return to work
Fast food rather than restaurants were favored by Shanghai residents on their first day back at work.
Because of the coronavirus, people are required to avoid eating in groups, which has affected the restaurant business. Most private restaurants stayed closed on Monday while some chain restaurants were providing a take-away service.
At the Cloud Nine shopping mall in Hongkou District, over half of its restaurants were open despite the lack of customers. At Sue Hsiao Liu, a chain restaurant famous for Shanghai snacks, two people were dining at separate tables around noon. At the entrance to the restaurant, there were packed food boxes for people preferring a take-away.
“We introduced the take-away service this month,” staff member Ye said. “Very few people have chosen to dine in the restaurant in the past two weeks. Before allowing customers in, we check their temperature and provide hand-washing liquid.”
Ye said the restaurant encourages customers to scan a QR code on the table to place orders instead of talking to waiters and waitresses. Restaurant staff are also required to avoid unnecessary chat with customers, and to wear masks and gloves when serving dishes.
Nanjing Impressions, another chain restaurant in the mall, was open for the first time since the Spring Festival holiday. The restaurant is usually open throughout the year, even on national holidays. Manager Wu Xiong said the restaurant has limited its choice of dishes due to supply problems.
“For example, we are temperately not able to offer our signature boiled salted duck dish. The ducks are usually delivered from Nanjing but transportation is affected during the virus outbreak.”
Wu said about 12 staff members were working in the restaurant, half of them chefs.
“All of them are employees who stayed back in Shanghai during the holiday. We are not arranging employees coming back from out of Shanghai to return to work so soon.”
Wu said the restaurant has opened only half of its dining area.
“But if customers want to sit farther from each other, we can also arrange,” he said. “All facilities in the restaurant are sterilized at least three to four times a day.”
Some restaurants have closed their dining areas but kept the kitchens open to handle take-away orders from online platforms.
Compared to traditional restaurants, fast-food restaurants and snack booths, including noodle shops, are popular.
At one branch of Burger King, customers were encouraged to place orders from self-service machines or through the app on their phones rather than going to the counters. Some chose to dine in the restaurant while more preferred their food packed to take away. At the pick-up window, an employee would leave packed food on the counter to avoid contact with customers as much as possible.
“The self-service machines are cleaned every two hours in each restaurant,” a Burger King staff member surnamed Gu said. “We will clean the tables immediately as soon as customers finish eating.”
The restaurant has also put up notices to remind customers to use hand-washing liquid and put their masks back on as soon as they leave the restaurant.
“Fast food is simple and takes less time,” said Tao, a diner at a PizzaMarzano branch. Tao works in an office not far from the restaurant.
“We don’t have a canteen. Some of my colleagues have brought lunch from home,” Tao said. “I chose to come out for a walk. I’ll pack a pizza for another two colleagues in the office when I finish.”
A number of cafes and coffee shops remained closed on Monday. Those still operating have closed their dining areas and only provide a take-away service.