Beijing has been battling an outbreak of the omicron variant of COVID-19 since April. While the Chinese capital has avoided a full citywide lockdown like the one seen in Shanghai, restrictions have not been easy for the city’s F&B industry.
That’s because on May 1, it was announced that venues in Beijing would have to temporarily suspend all dine-in services. Restaurants, bars and cafes were restricted to takeout only.
Fortunately, we got the good news on June 6 that Beijing would resume dine-in services. As of press time, there are some restrictions related to certain types of venues, but for the most part, people in the capital can go out to eat or grab a drink.
That’s reached out to a number of big players on the Beijing F&B scene to see how they coped with the city’s ‘soft’ lockdown. We wanted to find out not only how they dealt with the ban on dining-in, but also what customers can do to support their businesses.
In this article, we hear from Dave Martin, COO of FWM Restaurants in Beijing; the group owns and operates Morton’s Steakhouse in the Regent Hotel and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Universal Beijing Resort, and operated Red Lobster in Sanlitun (note that the venue is now closed).
Image via Dave Martin/FWM Restaurants
Unfortunately, the closure of Universal Beijing Resort meant that Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. has been unable to offer any services at all. However, we now know that the Resort will fully re-open on June 15.
On the other hand, Morton’s and Red Lobster did offer takeout delivery services.
Two restaurants we featured in previous That’s interviews, Beyond Yakitori and CDB, told us that they did not feel delivery was the way to go:
Martin, meanwhile, told us that some of the big delivery platforms were useful in keeping customers happy during the ‘soft’ lockdown period. This was combined with some innovation on the part of FWM Restaurants. Here’s what Martin had to say:
“Red Lobster has continued with take away and delivery.
“At Morton’s, we immediately launched a couple of set menus that we can drop off to guests.
“We also partnered with Dianping (点评) and Meituan (美团) on those menus, and were able to be mentioned on their initial communications. Meituan has been very helpful and been one of the best avenues to drive revenues.
“We have also worked with our sister company, Noble Spirits, on tailoring a platform for their members to be able to order from our à la carte menu for pick up or delivery; this helps to reduce third-party fees.
“We are working with Noble Spirits to develop their platform further to offer grocery items, raw goods and selected vegetables that we stock in all our restaurants. We will be able to deliver if people are unable to use their usual supply channels.
“We added additional technology for our guests who can now scan a QR code and order some set menus. Moreover, we can organize the delivery.”
When it comes to operating Morton’s, Martin stresses the importance of the long-term relationships the venue has built:
“We are very fortunate to have been operating Morton’s in Beijing for a long time. We have some great relationships with vendors who we are working with on credit terms and stocking other outlets that are open in other parts of the country.
“The hardest part of this period is the impact it has on the employees and managers; the changing restrictions have really impacted them regarding whether they can leave their homes or dormitories, and if they can even get to work.”
Other than heading out to dine or ordering takeout, Martin said customers can also do the following to support their venues:
“The biggest help anyone can give a restaurant (other than dining out or ordering takeout) is by purchasing prepaid cards, memberships or gift cards. This gives restaurants cash flow which is desperately needed after a long spell of closure. You can buy Morton’s gift cards through our official WeChat account.”
[Cover image via 大众点评]