Photos: Chinese restaurants starve for cash as virus hits industry

Restaurants are taking a huge hit as many people across China, a country of 1.4 billion, have been either under some form of quarantine or are reluctant to venture outside since late January over fears of contagion. Many restaurants have suspended dine-ins to help curb the spread of the virus, but eateries that have resumed operations remain largely empty, with people still encouraged to stay home to avoid infections. Some have turned to selling fresh and frozen products directly to communities.

Updated On Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST 12 Photos
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It is lunch time in Beijing, but the only diner in Cindy’s Cafe is an employee having a staff meal—it has been closed for more than three weeks as China battles a deadly virus epidemic. At Cindy’s Cafe in Beijing’s Roosevelt Plaza, dine-in revenue has fallen to zero, and relying on deliveries hardly makes up the shortfall, manager Cai Yaoyang told AFP. (Greg Baker / AFP)

It is lunch time in Beijing, but the only diner in Cindy’s Cafe is an employee having a staff meal—it has been closed for more than three weeks as China battles a deadly virus epidemic. At Cindy’s Cafe in Beijing’s Roosevelt Plaza, dine-in revenue has fallen to zero, and relying on deliveries hardly makes up the shortfall, manager Cai Yaoyang told AFP. (Greg Baker / AFP)

Updated on Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST
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A cleaner at a food street during lunch hour in Beijing's tech hub Zhongguancun. “On a good day in the past, we could earn over 1,000 yuan ($143) a day from deliveries,” Cai told AFP. “Now, it’s just around 200 to 300 yuan a day. The impact is especially big.” He estimates losses to the company, which has more than 10 outlets in China, could be “at least a few million (yuan)” . (Tingshu Wang / REUTERS)

A cleaner at a food street during lunch hour in Beijing's tech hub Zhongguancun. “On a good day in the past, we could earn over 1,000 yuan ($143) a day from deliveries,” Cai told AFP. “Now, it’s just around 200 to 300 yuan a day. The impact is especially big.” He estimates losses to the company, which has more than 10 outlets in China, could be “at least a few million (yuan)” . (Tingshu Wang / REUTERS)

Updated on Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST
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A delivery rider waits to deliver packages of food and other supplies outside a residential compound in Tongzhou, east of Beijing. Many restaurants have suspended dine-ins to help curb the spread of the virus, but eateries that have resumed operations remain largely empty, with people encouraged to stay home to avoid infections. COVID-19 has killed more than 2,400 in China and infected nearly 77,000. (Greg Baker / AFP)

A delivery rider waits to deliver packages of food and other supplies outside a residential compound in Tongzhou, east of Beijing. Many restaurants have suspended dine-ins to help curb the spread of the virus, but eateries that have resumed operations remain largely empty, with people encouraged to stay home to avoid infections. COVID-19 has killed more than 2,400 in China and infected nearly 77,000. (Greg Baker / AFP)

Updated on Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST
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Residents collect food distributed by volunteers outside their home in Wuhan. The China Cuisine Association said in a report this month that the country’s restaurant industry saw 4.67 trillion yuan ($665 billion) in catering revenue last year, with earnings over the Lunar New Year break making up over 15%. With millions staying indoors this year, those holiday earnings have evaporated. (Chinatopix via AP)

Residents collect food distributed by volunteers outside their home in Wuhan. The China Cuisine Association said in a report this month that the country’s restaurant industry saw 4.67 trillion yuan ($665 billion) in catering revenue last year, with earnings over the Lunar New Year break making up over 15%. With millions staying indoors this year, those holiday earnings have evaporated. (Chinatopix via AP)

Updated on Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST
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Some establishments have turned to selling fresh and frozen products directly to communities. In Yunhaiyao, a chain specialising in Yunnan cuisine, restaurant tables are piled with fresh vegetables instead of cooked dishes—ready to be packed and delivered to housing compounds. (Greg Baker / AFP)

Some establishments have turned to selling fresh and frozen products directly to communities. In Yunhaiyao, a chain specialising in Yunnan cuisine, restaurant tables are piled with fresh vegetables instead of cooked dishes—ready to be packed and delivered to housing compounds. (Greg Baker / AFP)

Updated on Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST
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Workers hauling a cart loaded with vegetables at Yunhaiyao restaurant before delivering them. Yunhaiyao, which has more than 100 outlets in China, now bulk-buys groceries for residents near its stores as a new income stream. It has also rolled out a fresh line of prepared ingredients for customers cooped up at home. (Greg Baker / AFP)

Workers hauling a cart loaded with vegetables at Yunhaiyao restaurant before delivering them. Yunhaiyao, which has more than 100 outlets in China, now bulk-buys groceries for residents near its stores as a new income stream. It has also rolled out a fresh line of prepared ingredients for customers cooped up at home. (Greg Baker / AFP)

Updated on Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST
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Yunhaiyao restaurant deliverymen out on the road. Zhao Yebule, store manager at Yunhaiyao’s Tongzhou branch in Beijing, said deliveries can rake in up to 6,000 yuan daily. But the company is still in a pinch. Li Jianying, a regional manager overseeing 10 outlets, said only around half of his staff were ready to resume work. Others cannot leave their residential compounds freely or face a 14-day quarantine when they return to Beijing. (Greg Baker / AFP)

Yunhaiyao restaurant deliverymen out on the road. Zhao Yebule, store manager at Yunhaiyao’s Tongzhou branch in Beijing, said deliveries can rake in up to 6,000 yuan daily. But the company is still in a pinch. Li Jianying, a regional manager overseeing 10 outlets, said only around half of his staff were ready to resume work. Others cannot leave their residential compounds freely or face a 14-day quarantine when they return to Beijing. (Greg Baker / AFP)

Updated on Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST
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A man collects bags of his food order as a worker passes in a basket customers to prevent human contact. Yunhaiyao remains worried about expenses and has taken a 10 million yuan loan to ease cash-flow pressures. One way out is to “share” employees with other businesses that are enjoying an increase in demand: e-commerce platforms. (Andy Wong / AP)

A man collects bags of his food order as a worker passes in a basket customers to prevent human contact. Yunhaiyao remains worried about expenses and has taken a 10 million yuan loan to ease cash-flow pressures. One way out is to “share” employees with other businesses that are enjoying an increase in demand: e-commerce platforms. (Andy Wong / AP)

Updated on Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST
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Residents buy food at a greengrocer’s. JD.com saw a 215% spike in fresh food sales over the Lunar New Year, while Meituan Grocery’s daily sales in Beijing tripled at its peak during the holiday. Li estimates “a few hundred” Yunhaiyao staff have taken on short-term work with supermarkets or online platforms. Cai added Cindy Cafe was in talks to help workers find temporary employment. (Tingshu Wang / REUTERS)

Residents buy food at a greengrocer’s. JD.com saw a 215% spike in fresh food sales over the Lunar New Year, while Meituan Grocery’s daily sales in Beijing tripled at its peak during the holiday. Li estimates “a few hundred” Yunhaiyao staff have taken on short-term work with supermarkets or online platforms. Cai added Cindy Cafe was in talks to help workers find temporary employment. (Tingshu Wang / REUTERS)

Updated on Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST
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Community staff members out delivering food to residents in Wuhan. A survey by Peking and Tsinghua universities, covering around 1,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises, said about 85% of these firms could only survive up to three months on their cash reserves. (AFP)

Community staff members out delivering food to residents in Wuhan. A survey by Peking and Tsinghua universities, covering around 1,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises, said about 85% of these firms could only survive up to three months on their cash reserves. (AFP)

Updated on Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST
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Restaurant workers prepare food to sell on the street in Beijing. Even as policymakers extend preferential loans and introduce tax breaks—among a slew of other measures— authorities “won’t be able to extend life support to all”, said Capital Economics in a report on Wednesday. “The longer the disruptions drag on, the harder it will be to avert significant damage to employment,” it added. (Greg Baker / AFP)

Restaurant workers prepare food to sell on the street in Beijing. Even as policymakers extend preferential loans and introduce tax breaks—among a slew of other measures— authorities “won’t be able to extend life support to all”, said Capital Economics in a report on Wednesday. “The longer the disruptions drag on, the harder it will be to avert significant damage to employment,” it added. (Greg Baker / AFP)

Updated on Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST
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Restaurant workers sell food on the street outside their restaurant in Beijing, As it is, the big players are hurting. Lao Xiang Ji, which has some 800 outlets, estimates at least 500 million yuan in losses, said chairman Shu Cong Xuan in a video on the company’s WeChat account. Another major chain, Xibei Noodle Village, said on social media that it “cannot last for long” with tight cash flow. (Greg Baker / AFP)

Restaurant workers sell food on the street outside their restaurant in Beijing, As it is, the big players are hurting. Lao Xiang Ji, which has some 800 outlets, estimates at least 500 million yuan in losses, said chairman Shu Cong Xuan in a video on the company’s WeChat account. Another major chain, Xibei Noodle Village, said on social media that it “cannot last for long” with tight cash flow. (Greg Baker / AFP)

Updated on Feb 24, 2020 06:10 PM IST
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