In an article published on February 4, the Economist declared that “optimism has crumbled” in regards to the Chinese economy, a direct result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The declaration should be unquestionably worrisome for anyone living and working in China. It’s particularly distressing when you consider that less than a month ago, China-based producers, retailers and those in other industries were celebrating the announcement that US President Donald Trump and China’s Vice Premier Liu had signed the first phase of a trade deal.
But that was three and a half weeks ago, before the novel coronavirus began dominating headlines around the globe.
The outbreak of a deadly disease is just one of countless reasons for society to turn pessimistic about an economy, but the results are nonetheless the same: lack of investment from businesses, a stock market sell-off and a drop in consumer spending, among other consequences.
On the morning of February 3, stocks fell in Shanghai and Shenzhen by 8.7% and 9.13% respectively. The following day, the Economist noted that share prices on the Chinese mainland had fallen by 10% since January 20. This occurred despite a RMB1.2 trillion (USD173 billion) injection of liquidity into the markets by the People’s Bank of China on February 3.
Travel restrictions, both government-imposed and airline-led, along with local disease control and prevention measures, have hampered a variety of business sectors in China, with the hospitality and food and beverage industries being hit particularly hard.
Across the country, hotels have temporarily closed their doors, while countless other hospitality venues have cut staff and canceled upcoming events to cope with the sharp drop in occupancy rates.
Restaurants, pubs and cafes in many Chinese cities have also been forced to temporarily cease operations to comply with government measures aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“It has had a severe impact on business, with many local customers fearing to be out in public,” one of the proprietors of Hooley’s Irish Pub in Guangzhou told us earlier this week. “There really isn’t a whole lot we can do at this point to mitigate the damage. We have limited opening hours, but we still must pay our staff their monthly salaries. We will attempt to get some rent relief.”
While it was no secret that F&B establishments were going to suffer from forced closures and a frightened populace, the response of the Hooley’s owner we spoke to got us thinking: How are other bars and restaurants in China holding up amid the coronavirus outbreak? And, perhaps more importantly, what do F&B insiders predict will be the long-term impact of the current situation?
To answer these questions, we spoke with 12 F&B veterans from across China to get their insight. The result: a series of articles we have dubbed the Appetite for Destruction series.
Without saying too much (we’ll let you read their responses below), we noticed several similarities between respondents’ answers: There are numerous comparisons to SARS, unanimous agreement that some F&B venues will be forced to close and a cautious optimism that things will be back to normal in the not-so-distant future.
Click on the links below to get insider insight on the impact the coronavirus crisis is having on China’s F&B industry:
For regular updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak in China, click here.
[Cover artwork by Tristan Sapp for That’s]