China’s restaurants adapt to open new revenue stream amid virus outbreaks

After the monthlong suspension of dine-in operations, restaurants are embracing online takeout and delivery services that have proved effective for many businesses to stay afloat.


Patrons return to restaurants after Beijing resumes dine-in services in most parts of the city last week. [Photo by WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY]

June 20, 2022

BEIJING – Before the monthlong suspension of dine-in operations in Beijing, many local restaurants did not have an online ordering option. But now they are embracing online takeout and delivery services that have proved effective for many businesses to stay afloat.

“Our branch in Qingnianhui shopping mall joined a third-party delivery platform as soon as we heard the news that dine-in services would be suspended for a while,” said Feng Yonghui, owner of Liudinghuo barbecue.

“Customers love eating barbecue at our restaurant, which home cooking cannot replicate. It is not a good idea to only sell ingredients. So we offer family-sized menu choices. If customers reach a certain amount, they will receive a full set of grilling tools including an oven, a grill and a griddle,” Feng said. “At the same time, we offer discounts so that customers are more willing to give it a try.”

Feng’s marketing strategies have paid off. According to him, the mall branch receives more than 100 online orders on weekdays, and over 200 orders on weekends. The revenue of its takeout services can cover 60-70 percent of costs.

“Now that dine-in services are back, we still plan to open an area in each store to handle online orders. We will walk with two legs,”Feng said.

Mao Liming, who is responsible for the Andingmen branch of Huaiyang Fu, made a similar move during the indoor dining suspension. “We had no income at all for 15 days since the suspension went into effect and our monthly expenses reached 1 million yuan ($149,900). That’s why we turned to takeout orders,” Mao said.

Her restaurant was named in the Black Pearl Restaurant Guide, the Chinese equivalent of the Michelin Guide. “Our meal prices are relatively high and most customers may not spend much when they order online,” Mao said. But with menus catering to online customers, the restaurant has seen a fast growth in orders.

“We were reluctant to turn to takeout services but, in fact, we benefited from the certainty online ordering offered during times of uncertainty,” Mao added.

Another restaurant that was forced to reinvent itself due to the pandemic is Emei Restaurant, a time-honored brand in Beijing.

Shen Ye, owner of the restaurant’s Guangqulu branch, said:”The COVID-19 pandemic came suddenly in 2020. At that time, we had to adopt online ordering and felt stressed and anxious. But today, we have been on track for two years and we are confident.

“Takeout services offer us access to new customers. I have noticed that many customers come to our restaurants after having our takeout.”

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