Chinese restaurant adjusts to outdoor dining in COVID-19 pandemic

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“The restaurant’s turnover is only two to three percent of what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Rent, utilities and staff salaries have to be paid as usual,” Chen Shanzhuang, owner of a Chinese restaurant named Golden Imperial Palace in New York City, told Xinhua.

Chen, who has run the restaurant for more than three decades, is facing an unprecedented crisis. In mid to late March, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in the United States, and businesses were shut down across New York State. With the executive order of “New York State on PAUSE”, his restaurant chain had to close.

Actually his restaurant began to feel the negative impact of COVID-19 in January, Chen said. “An important indicator was the number of tourists decreased significantly.”

“We tried a take-out service in late June, but there were only 20 takeaways a day,” Chen said.

Although outdoor dining was permitted in the phase two of reopening starting June 22 in New York City, Chen did not reopen outdoor dining at his restaurant until Aug. 21. He bought a large number of protective masks, gloves, disposable bowls and chopsticks and disinfection supplies. All customers need to register for the purpose of tracking.

In order to attract more customers, he started barbecue as a new way of business.

“Our restaurant used to be so popular that we offered more than 200 banquets a year. Banquets accounted for 60 percent of the turnover,” Chen said. “The average yearly turnover of the restaurant before the outbreak was more than 8 million dollars. The turnover is only more than 1 million dollars until now this year.”

In the meantime, his restaurant offered free lunch and dinner to frontline workers during the pandemic. “They are fighting the virus with their lives, we certainly should offer supporting service, providing them with warm and tasty dishes,” Chen said. His restaurant has donated more than 6,000 free meals to frontline works up to now.

The number of Chinese restaurants has reduced by around 20 percent since the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City, said Chen, president of American Chinese Restaurant Alliance (New York).

“Now there are many old customers coming to eat, and I’m moved hearing the words ‘Thank you for reopening!'” Chen told Xinhua. “I will do my best to adjust my strategy to outdoor dining.”

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