People flock to restaurants as catering services resume in Shanghai

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Old friends enjoy their moment together at Sunya restaurant in Shanghai.

People flocked to restaurants – as well as bars and cafes – for morning tea, birthday parties, reunions and – for some – fine Japanese cuisine on Wednesday, when catering services were finally restored in Shanghai. after a long hiatus.

After a two-month COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and then take-out-only service, customers were thrilled and happy to socialize with each other and grab a familiar or fresh bite at restaurants.

The pandemic-affected restaurant industry welcomed the long-awaited reopening and was fully prepared for it with strict pandemic control requirements.

morning tea

At Sunya Restaurant, a famous Cantonese restaurant located in downtown Nanjing Road E., old customers came to have a familiar bite to eat in the morning.

“Sunya is one of my favorite restaurants,” said a local woman, who came for morning tea with her husband. The couple are loyal customers of the restaurant.

“We planned our visit as soon as we learned that the indoor dining restrictions would be lifted,” she told the Shanghai Daily. “We came here at 7:10 a.m. to line up, 20 minutes before opening time.”

Some people came to hang out with old friends.

“We called Sunya to reserve a table knowing that eating in is allowed,” said a Shanghai resident. yes (aunt) surnamed Zhang, who came with some of her friends.

People flock to restaurants as catering services resume in Shanghai

Zhu Shenshen / SHINE

Friends gather at a Haidilao hotpot restaurant to celebrate a birthday.

hotpot lunch

Haidilao, China’s largest hotpot restaurant chain, reopened 40 outlets on Wednesday, with more to open “within days.”

About 10 minutes after 12:00 p.m., more than a dozen people scanned the pandemic control code and location code to enter a Haidilao outlet near Yuyuan Garden in downtown Huangpu District. Some were celebrating a birthday.

Reservations and seating were 20 to 30 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to Cheng Wei, the restaurant’s chef, who strongly recommended booking in advance rather than showing up.

Wang and his girlfriend Liu, both college graduates, chose Haidilao as their first sit-down meal at a restaurant after months of cooking for themselves or ordering takeout.

“We love Haidilao’s unique shrimp slush and tomato pot. We considered ordering a take-out hotpot, but decided against it due to its complexity,” Wang said.

People flock to restaurants as catering services resume in Shanghai

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Two French people have lunch in an Italian restaurant.

Cafes and small business owners

On Beijing Road W., people were enjoying good times with friends in cafes.

However, some cafes only offered take-out food.

“We will not resume domestic service until we receive a notice of approval from the company,” said an official at a cafe in Jing’an district, which still only serves takeout. .

For owners of some small restaurants, such as ramen and wonton shops, resuming indoor dining is great news because it means more customers and therefore more revenue.

“I’ve been in Shanghai for decades and run a ramen restaurant, which has been open for more than ten years,” said an owner named Meng, whose restaurant is located on Pingxingguan Road in downtown Shanghai. Jing’an.

“During the lockdown period, the restaurant was closed for 75 days. We resumed takeout service on June 3, but our revenue was only around 40% of normal.”

On Tuesday evening, Meng and his wife prepared to provide indoor service to customers.

People flock to restaurants as catering services resume in Shanghai

Zhou Shengjie / SHINE

Xu Peinan, owner of the Chaoshan restaurant “Caogen Yedang”, and his staff prepare food in the scullery.

On Yongkang Road, which is often crowded with expats, coffee lovers and pet owners, most cafes and restaurants opened on Wednesday, although some remained closed.

Wang, owner of a Cantonese restaurant on the road, told the Shanghai Daily that she was forced to cut her restaurant space in half due to rising land costs. Many cafes and restaurants have closed permanently, she revealed, adding that her restaurant was ready to reopen, with many customers making inquiries and reservations.

Xu Peinan, owner of the Chaoshan “Caogen Yedang” restaurant, received dozens of phone calls Tuesday afternoon, inquiring about catering services.

“We need another day to do the disinfection. We can resume catering services from June 30 or July 1,” he reassured them.

The restaurant closed in mid-March due to the lockdown and began taking online orders on June 6. After receiving the restaurant takeover notice, Xu and the staff immediately stepped up their efforts to contact suppliers.

“Many vegetables from my hometown are not available in Shanghai, and we fly them in from Chaoshan,” Xu said. “We have to guarantee the freshness of all our ingredients.”

People flock to restaurants as catering services resume in Shanghai

Zhu Shenshen / SHINE

Zac from the United States strolled along the popular Yongkang Road, happy that catering services had resumed in Shanghai.

Fine Japanese cuisine

Zac, from the United States, said he was happy that sit-down meals had been reinstated and that he planned to have dinner at a fine-dining Japanese restaurant with his friends on Wednesday evening.

“It wasn’t easy because a lot of people called to book today,” Zac said. “Before, you could stay on the streets, not anymore.”

Staff at Kurogi Japanese Restaurant on North Suzhou Road have been busy this week.

On Wednesday, plates were in place for dining tables, knives rearranged on shelves and flowers and other decorations refreshed as the restaurant reopened for the first time in nearly three months.

People flock to restaurants as catering services resume in Shanghai

Ti Gong

Kurogi’s Japanese chef prepares lobster for customers on Wednesday.

“We have three private rooms in total, and they are all full,” said Fu Yonglu, CEO of Kurogi. “The six seats at the dining room counter are also almost fully booked.”

Kurogi was selected as Shanghai Black Pearl Restaurant 2020-2022 by Dianping, China’s equivalent of Yelp, and is said to be one of the best Japanese restaurants in Shanghai. The restaurant served up to 30 customers a day and was almost always full before the lockdown.

The pandemic has hit the restaurant hard, but Fu said it has always maintained its standards, so even during the difficult period, salaries and accommodation for company staff have remained unchanged.

Since the supply chain has not yet been fully restored, the restaurant can only obtain 80% of the original ingredients, and some of the refrigerated food from Japan cannot yet be shipped to Shanghai. However, Fu said he remains confident in his team’s ability to satisfy customers even though some of the ingredients have changed due to the imposed menu changes.

And Fu is optimistic about the future of the restaurant. “We will work hard to make up for the three months of losses in the second half of the year. With the power of our brand, I am confident that our customers will come back.”

Pandemic measures

According to Shanghai policies, catering services are allowed in low-risk areas and areas with no community spread of COVID-19 in the previous week.

Guests must have a 72 hour negative nucleic acid test report. They must scan the location code, wear a mask and receive temperature checks to enter restaurants.

People flock to restaurants as catering services resume in Shanghai

Ti Gong

Haidilao offers codes and hand washing sterilization for diners.

Catering capacity is limited to 70% in large and medium-sized restaurants with commercial spaces covering more than 150 square meters and half in small restaurants. Meal time is normally limited to less than an hour and a half.

Since early June, Kurogi has been receiving calls for reservations, but the restaurant does not yet plan to accept too many customers.

“We are just getting back to the restoration phase and we want some control over the number of customers,” Fu explained.

Upon learning that on-site dining would resume, Kurogi’s team sanitized the entire restaurant and confirmed that all employees had obtained the 24-hour polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result.

Sunya also took similar action.

Cai Mengyun, who is in charge of Sunya’s catering operations, said, “We only have 16 tables available for morning tea, compared to 26 tables before the lockdown.”

“This means diners will be seated with at least a 2 meter gap between each table,” she added. “And all of our staff take PCR tests every day.”

Most restaurants, including Sunya, Haidilao and McDonald’s, have set up waiting areas in well-ventilated halls with special staff to maintain order and enforce pandemic regulations.

At Haidilao outlets, diners are seated with empty tables separating two sets of diners. It has also reduced its operating hours to close at 10:00 p.m., compared to late at night before.

Richard F. Gandhi