F&B Shops Need Customer Support for Coronavirus Recovery: Zhuhai's Mark Clayton

By Matthew Bossons, February 8, 2020

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This article is a part of our Appetite for Destruction feature, a series of interviews conducted by That’s staff to examine the impact of the novel coronavirus on China’s food and beverage industry. For more articles from this series, click here.

Mark Clayton – Zhuhai

Proprietor at The London Lounge Bar & Restaurant

If you live in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) or regularly frequent Macao’s mainland neighbor, Zhuhai, chances are you are familiar with The London Lounge Bar & Restaurant. The establishment’s proprietor, Mark Clayton, has been living in China for 15 years. Below, Clayton shares his thoughts on the impact the novel coronavirus is having on Zhuhai’s F&B scene:

How has the novel coronavirus outbreak impacted your business? What about Zhuhai’s F&B scene at large?
Unfortunately, the entire city’s F&B industry has been forced to temporarily close by the local government for consumption on-premises; only take-away and delivery orders are allowed. Our business is currently closed until further notice.

What measures has your business taken to mitigate the damage caused by the prolonged CNY holiday and the ongoing coronavirus outbreak?
There is sadly nothing concrete we can do, yet. We’ve been keeping our customers informed of our closure and made sure of our staff’s welfare. We’ve approached the landlord for rent reduction, and he has been receptive and said something will be offered; we’re waiting on news of what that will be. To save our food wastage being thrown away, we gave it to the staff to eat.

Have you experienced similar challenges previously, while working in the F&B industry in Zhuhai?
Not only in F&B, but in my entire career in multiple industries I have never experienced challenges like this. It’s unprecedented and it’s a complete unknown.

How long do you think it will take for your business to recover as a result of the coronavirus and the preventative measures that have been put in place?
Whilst I am optimistic that the enforced temporary closure of the F&B industry in Zhuhai will be lifted soon, I believe that many families will avoid these types of venues until the summer. Additionally, it will be very difficult for us to run busy, big ticket events in the short to medium term, as people will avoid large crowds in confined spaces. With these events being a large majority of our income, I sadly believe it’ll take a long time for our business to recover.

I have hope that the authorities and their preventative measures will have good effect soon and that our customers, understanding of the situation, will eat and drink out more frequently in the medium term to help all of us in the industry recover, we need the support.

Do you think the outbreak, containment measures and prolonged holiday will result in lasting damage to the F&B scene in Zhuhai?
Sadly, many places will not survive to see the industry turn around. The longer the issues last, the higher the risk that the industry could be devastated for the independent F&B operators who operate with typically very low working capital.

In this scenario, the lasting damage will sadly affect F&B consumers the most, as the franchise bars and restaurants that have deeper pockets and bank support will not just survive, but will relish the opportunity to expand quickly, reducing consumer choices and removing the heart and soul of the industry.

What could be the possible positive outcomes of this disease outbreak for Zhuhai’s F&B scene going forward?
Overwhelmingly, the positive impact to the F&B industry will be hygiene related. The local and national governments have been doing a fine job in commencing hygiene education over the past month and I hope this continues long into the future, after the virus has been brought under control. Many people now have much more self-awareness on hygiene, this includes the management and staff of F&B establishments and their consumers. Long may it continue, as better hygiene is a positive for every one of us.

Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

For regular updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak in China, click here. For more articles in our Appetite for Destruction series, click here.

[Cover image via Mark Clayton]

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