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Food delivery feeds recovery

By Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2020-02-18 07:20
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Chefs in a restaurant in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, cook yuanxiao, a special food for Lantern Festival, for workers at the front line against the outbreak. [Photo/Xinhua]

Restaurants refocus their business models to bring meals to people.

Nearly all of Beijing's restaurants closed for a month when the SARS outbreak hit 17 years ago. Liu Jingjing, who owns a dozen stores and restaurants, remembers clearly how she entertained her employees by playing games and getting them to read to kill the time and take their minds off the situation.

She tried to start a delivery service then. But the SARS threat disappeared, and things started to return to normal before she got it on track.

After the one-month shutdown, she had to take out a loan at 10 percent interest per month to pay her employees and vendors on time.

A year later, upon noticing the demand for healthy food after the epidemic, she decided to open a new restaurant chain, Jiaheyipin, focused on serving nutritious porridge. Liu also launched a delivery service in 2008.

Box meals are ready for delivery at Jiaheyipin restaurant in Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

When the novel coronavirus outbreak occurred in China during this Spring Festival, businesses were shut again, and the catering industry became one of the hardest hit.

On Feb 6, the Beijing Administration for Market Regulation launched a guide for catering companies during the epidemic.

All customers in restaurants should be temperature tested before entering. And the restaurants should set up hand-wash facilities, and control the number of customers and space between each diner.

The guide also asks restaurants to not accept bookings of more than three people.

Unlike during SARS, most eateries have chosen to stay open, including Liu's chain, even though they receive far fewer walk-ins. They are focusing on delivery services.

Jiaheyipin closed from Jan 24 to 27 for Spring Festival. The epidemic did not stop Liu from opening on Jan 28. She put greater emphasis on delivery service.

About a third of her 1,500 employees are at work, she says. The others are staying in their hometowns, waiting for further instructions. But she has promised to pay their salaries on time.

"Some employees told me they could receive their paychecks in stages, so our company won't face serious cash-flow difficulties, which really touched me," Liu says."I always say that our workforce is a warm family, like brothers and sisters."

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