Armada Group's Nico Yang & Marco Chavez on F&B's Troubled Times

By Ned Kelly, July 7, 2022

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Nico Yang and Marco Chavez are GM and Executive Chef of Armada Group (Bonica, LOGGIA by Bonica, Tacos El Paisa, La Barra, La Mezcaleria), respectively. We caught up with them to talk about the lockdown and its impact on Shanghai's F&B scene.

Describe the toll of Shanghai’s citywide lockdown on your venues?
Nico Yang: By government request, we closed for dine-in service since before the start of the citywide lockdown. As we are a venue with multiple concepts in one and really rely on in-house guests, it’s been quite a challenge. 

Marco Chavez: We were more than 100 days closed, which has definitely forced us into survival mode. In an industry like ours, it’s impossible to move forward in any substantial way when you’ve not been able to operate normally for that long – especially for small and mid-sized F&B venues and operators.

And what were the effects of the lockdown on you and your staff's mental wellbeing?
MC: Speaking only of my personal experience, it was tough spending every day thinking about how and when we will be able to resume business. What breaks me the most is knowing that 2022 will essentially be a “lost” year.

How long do you think it will take the Shanghai F&B industry to recover from the effects of the shutdown?
MC: I would say 18 months. I believe this situation will also make investors hesitant to open new venues anytime soon – there’s just so much uncertainty nowadays.

NY: Hopefully we still catch part of the summer season – if not, we’ve lost all of 2022. Realistically it would take until summer 2023 to recover. 

What percentage of restaurants do you think we will see shutter for good?
NY: I’d say at least 30%.

Have you made any changes to your business model as a result of the recent lockdown?
We developed delivery and takeaway menus and offered discounts on our regular prices, but we know that is not the way for a business to survive long term.

It’s really not a suitable business model, especially since third party delivery platforms charge astronomical fees for every transaction – it makes us the perfect easy prey in the food chain.

Now that the city is opening up, aside from dining-out/ordering takeout, what can customers do to support your venues?
MC: If you are ordering, ordering directly from the venue as much as possible would help a lot, whether that means coming by for pick up or sending your own driver through services like Shansong or Meituan Paotui.

Try not to use delivery platforms when ordering from small and mid-size restaurants – it’s quite tough on us.

NY: Spend all their money dining out? Haha. Honestly, just remember us, and come see us – we can’t wait to welcome everyone back now we are back open, and we have a lot of cool events in the works. 

We’re also offering deals on group packages and private parties, with special discounts if you pre-book.

You can find the Armada Group's multiple concepts at Bldg 5, Lane 273 Jiaozhou Lu, by Xinzha Lu (enter on Yanping Lu or Jiaozhou Lu) 胶州路273弄60号5幢110室,近新闸路

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