Dining Out Sees a Comeback

Authors: ChinaDaily

2020-04-08

People are slowly coming back to normal life after eateries and cafes have begun reopening.

Shops and eateries have reopened and roads are bustling again after hundreds of millions of people nationwide spent weeks confined to their homes or neighborhoods.

"It was difficult to be at home for such a long time," says a foodie surnamed Chen as he enjoyed his favorite hotpot in Sichuan province's capital, Chengdu, which is known for the dish.

"Now, spring is in the air, and things are turning around."

Catering and tourism are major pillars of China's economic growth and are among the industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

They are slowly coming back to life after eateries and cafes have begun opening their long-shuttered doors and scenic spots have reopened to tourists since the epidemic has receded.

"Now, the epidemic is under control. People are getting back to their normal lives and embracing the best season of the year before it passes," says Ren Jingxuan, who owns a Korean-style barbecue restaurant in Chengdu.

"Welcome! Pizza night is back," says Simone Crespi while greeting his German guest by bumping elbows. "It would be a giant hug under normal circumstances."

On March 17, Simone, one of the three owners of the Italian restaurant Bucciano in Chengdu, promoted a pizza night on the social media platform WeChat.

The restaurant saw its first wave of customers since the pandemic. Marco, the manager, took each customer's temperature and sprayed alcohol on their hands.

Bucciano was closed from Spring Festival until late February. As the pandemic wanes, the restaurant has also started to receive about 15 online orders a day on delivery applications, such as Meituan, and on WeChat.

"The Chinese government is efficient in making the right decisions, and the Chinese people strictly follow the rules. Those efforts show great results," says Simone.

"We are operating at half capacity, but hopefully business will make a full recovery by the end of March."

Scott Williams and Philipp Muckley are frequent visitors to the restaurant. It was their first time dining out since the outbreak.

"Apart from some necessary protective measures, our life is not much different from before. I am very happy to meet my friends and enjoy delicious food again," says Williams, who's the general manager of an executive apartment in Chengdu.

In Chengdu, one of the UNESCO Creative Cities of Gastronomy, cuisine comes not only from elegant restaurants but also from street food.

At weekday mealtimes, office workers flock to small streets and alleys where vendors sell signature dishes.

"Chengdu is alive again, with bowls full of spicy noodle soup and people having meals on the street side and road junctions," says a 25-year-old surnamed Li.

A rice-noodle shop owner surnamed Ji says: "Business has gradually picked up since people started resuming work in March. Turnover is about 40 percent compared with normal."

About 93 percent of food-and-beverage enterprises were closed during the epidemic, and revenue fell 79 percent in February compared with the same period last year, Sichuan's department of commerce reports.

On March 25, Sichuan downgraded its epidemic emergency response from the second to the third level. All public venues, including eateries, cinemas, theaters, bars, museums and libraries, are reopening in an orderly manner. Nearly 87 percent of the 261,000 online and offline catering enterprises in the province had resumed business by March 23.

As of March 25, 11 cities and prefectures in the province have adopted supportive measures to encourage citizens to dine out and boost consumption.

For instance, restaurants facing the street are allowed to set up tables outside as long as they don't impede traffic and pedestrians.

"The policy helps small shops since we have to seat clients farther apart and only receive a limited number of customers at a time," says Xiong Jianmei, owner of a hotpot and noodle restaurant.

"It also reduces people's worries after seeing more dining out. The once-bustling street is gradually coming back to life. So are our business and our lives."

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