7 Shanghai F&B Insiders React to Recent COVID Lockdowns

By Sophie Steiner, March 21, 2022

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In the time warp we currently live in, Shanghai – along with many other cities across the country – have gone into 2020-esque level lockdowns, with mandatory quarantines of varying lengths and restaurant and bar closures abound.

Two years on from the initial lockdowns, some feel more prepared than the unknown that was COVID in January 2020, while for others others the unexpected shutdowns are even harder than before. 

We reached out to a handful of restaurateurs, bar owners and those in the F&B industry to get their take on the situation and predict what the future holds. 

What feels different about this lockdown compared to 2020?

“2020 was gray…Nobody knew what the hell was going on with the virus, and there were no rules or policies. Now, it's much more black and white with definitive actions and other examples to follow. That makes this feel more predictable and nerve-wracking at the same time.”

Chase Williams, owner of The Rooster and Perch

“The main difference with 2020 is back then no one knew what was going on. It was more survival mentality – will we survive? What is happening in the world?”

Christine Redinger, Camel Hospitality Group

“2020 felt scarier; death rates higher, unknown factors, a new virus hitting the world. It was the world against one enemy. This time around, it feels like there are a lot more selfish agendas at play. Literally and fiscally, there is less ultimate fear of death, just a very uncomfortable slow and painful one.”

John Liu, owner of Coquille and Scarpetta

“I feel like for the most part people are ready for this lockdown. Back in 2020, customers used to call me up ordering Tacolicious on Eleme and yelling because the driver wouldn’t deliver to their door. Like I had any say in it. People were panicked as there was no precedence for it in our lifetimes.

“In this go around, people were ready for the lobby or gate of their compound, lane house, boy band asylum or whatnot be the pickup spot. In the last two years, we’ve become seasoned to the way of COVID.”

Logan Brouse, owner of Tacolicious 

“It feels (hopefully) less unending... although I’ve personally been restricted for 17 days at this stage! There have been more purposeful actions citywide, which will hopefully bear results sooner.”

Nat Alexander, owner of Homeslice 

Do you feel more or less prepared?

“More prepared, but closed is closed. Delivery isn't paying all the bills.”

Chase Williams, owner of The Rooster and Perch

“We were as prepared as a beekeeper is prepared to get bee stings. It was inevitable, but it goes with the job. We ordered delivery items ahead of time, using what we learned in 2020 – that delivery is clutch in keeping the lights on and keeping those in quarantine with some semblance of normality.”

Logan Brouse, owner of Tacolicious

How are you coping with the current restrictions?

“Every day we need to wake up and understand which staff are on lockdown and which are available to work to fully be able to understand the status of each venue. The few staff who can work are exhausted at this point. 

“The government not fully closing restaurants and saying you can be open for delivery only is a double edge sword; it helps keep some cash flow coming into the business, but protects the landlord to be able to ask for rent still as they can say, ‘Well, you were open for delivery.”

Christine Redinger, Camel Hospitality Group

“It can only be handled day by day as the authorities are managing it as it evolves – which means constant changes.”

Gianluca, F&B Director, 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana

“The restaurant operations restrictions are difficult. We will be at a net loss in the millions.”

John Liu, owner of Coquille and Scarpetta

“The fact that we can still do take-out and – for some restaurants – dine-in, is a generous concession. It would have been simple for the government to shut down all restaurants and bars, and in a low margin industry like F&B, a week or two of being completely closed can be the difference between life and death for a restaurant.

“Personally, I find a generous pour of whiskey works wonders.”

Logan Brouse, owner of Tacolicious

Have you made any business model changes as a result of this recent wave of COVID shutdowns?

“Figuring out how to engage with our community more.”

Chase Williams, owner of The Rooster and Perch

“Aside from adding burritos to the delivery menu, we make a Spotify playlist so our guests can enjoy their delivery while listening to the weekly curated playlist that they would normally hear in our restaurant.”

Logan Brouse, owner of Tacolicious

“We are currently operating our venues in a retail and home delivery capacity. While home delivery of wine makes up a large portion of our business, with restaurants closed and other entertainment occasions greatly limited, we are seeing a big drop off in sales.”

Alex Calliard, Manager of Pudao Wines

“We’re fortunate to have a well-developed delivery side of our business. At this time of year, we’re normally about 65% delivery anyway. So luckily Homeslice has been minimally affected.”

Nat Alexander, owner of Homeslice 

How do you see this current shutdown effecting Shanghai’s F&B scene for the rest of 2022?

“As bad as in 2020, but with the assertiveness it’ll be handled properly with thought and efficient lockdown measures. I respect the way China is handling the issue and comply with the restrictions. It’s the only way to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Gianluca, F&B Director, 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana

“I don't think it’s this shutdown we should be discussing. I think it’s more about Omicron and eventual mutations. I don't want to discuss politics, but it’s more a matter of policy that will affect our industry.”

John Liu, owner of Coquille and Scarpetta 

What’s your go-to delivery food/restaurant?

“After cooking a couple meals myself at home, it makes me appreciate a skilled chef. Now I’m craving Indian and wishing Klay was A) open and B) on any delivery apps. So Tiffin for Indian it is, and Xibo for Xinjiang food are getting my delivery orders lately.”

Chase Williams, owner of The Rooster and Perch

“Eli Falafel. Oh God that garlic sauce is good.”

Alex Calliard, Manager of Pudao Wines

“We probably order from Pain Chaud most at home, and I order Fit Bee a lot for lunch at work.”

Nat Alexander, owner of Homeslice

Once this all passes, where will you go first?

“Home.”

Chase Williams, owner of The Rooster and Perch

“Tokyo.”

John Liu, owner of Coquille and Scarpetta

“Strip Club”

Logan Brouse, owner of Tacolicious 

“Korea town for screen golf and BBQ with a few of the lads.”

Alex Calliard, Manager of Pudao Wines

“The first cold beer looking at the sea in Thailand. No question.”

Nat Alexander, owner of Homeslice


[Cover artwork by Tristan Sapp for That’s]

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