Restaurants serve up range of new ideas

By Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2020-04-23 06:59
Li Yaoyang, co-founder of Saffron, a restaurant in Beijing's Wudaoying Hutong, is livestreaming short videos for diners. [Photo/China Daily]

Creative concepts aimed at reducing losses

A small, open area is situated in front of In & Out, a restaurant specializing in cuisine from Yunnan province, located in Sanlitun, the prominent restaurant, bar and entertainment area in Beijing.

Every weekend since March 15, restaurant owners, florists and vegetable sellers have flocked to an outdoor market held on the site to sell their products.

The market was organized by In & Out owner Li Gang to help his suppliers sell their produce from Yunnan and for restaurants in Sanlitun to sell their specialties.

"By helping them, I am helping myself. People come to wander around the market, and they may also come to my restaurant to eat," Li said.

The catering industry has been hit hard by the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak. Restaurants have developed creative ideas to reduce losses-ranging from livestream broadcasts to community ventures. Some are even sharing their employees' time with factories and other businesses.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the industry's income for the first two months of this year was 419.4 billion yuan ($59.2 billion), down more than 43 percent year-on-year.

The majority of restaurants reopened last month, but the number of customers has been low.

Li said, "The takeout market has been intensely competitive. Thousands of restaurants, which never offered such services before, have joined the market."

Li has been selling semi-cooked products on WeChat since the beginning of February. He offered Yunnan special preserved ribs as his first half-cooked product online, selling more than 300 portions in the first week.

"This is one of the most popular dishes among walk-in diners, and it's easy to cook. All the ingredients are readily available, and customers only have to boil them together to enjoy a meal," Li said.

After seeing that there were no buyers for fruit and vegetables from his suppliers in Kunming, capital of Yunnan, Li decided to sell vegetable gift bags and some local snacks, such as tofu, on WeChat.

"All the raw ingredients are shipped directly from Kunming, and clients can receive them within three days, while they are still fresh," he said.

Li also founded an e-commerce section in February to deal with his new business ventures. "Before the pandemic, my focus was mostly on offline service, such as creating new dishes, but COVID-19 led to me to embrace online activity," he said.

He also plans to provide his clients with seasonal produce from Yunnan throughout the year.

However, due to the outbreak, income from dine-in customers and online sales has fallen by two-thirds, and he has had to apply for a bank loan.

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