Best of Richmond: Restaurants are working against all odds during COVID-19
Although the local restaurant industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, many have turned to take-out and outdoor dining to survive the pandemic.
From fresh fish on Steveston’s docks to dim sum in the Golden Triangle, Richmond has been a culinary mecca for decades.
So when the pandemic became a reality, the city was hit hard.
As of January 2020, large Chinese restaurants, most of which had already stocked up for the huge Chinese New Year crowds, were empty.
By February, many had closed their doors – some temporarily, others permanently.
“Many restaurants found themselves stranded in survival mode in 2020 and 2021. Some are doing their best to stay there, but others have had no choice but to lay off workers to cover rent and other expenses. after seeing a significant drop in their income. Said William Tse, director of the BC Asian Restaurant Café Owners Association.
Tse added that some of the restaurants in his group have closed permanently or changed ownership since the pandemic hit the province.
Chinese restaurants began to struggle earlier than others, Tse said, because much of their Chinese customer base was already aware of what was going on in China and knew how quickly the virus could spread.
They saw the dangers of large gatherings and started avoiding restaurants last January, Tse added.
“Many restaurants have had to use the income from previous years to keep their doors open.”
Small, family-run food courts seem to be doing well at the moment, but many of the large Chinese restaurants that used to host banquets have had to close their doors for good as their income from foot traffic just isn’t enough to keep them going. cover their monthly costs. , Tse explained.
But where there have been challenges, there has been even more innovation and resilience, said Rae Kung, general manager of the Chinese Restaurant Awards,
“Many restaurants have launched online ordering apps or collaborated with third-party delivery services; some have even taken it a step further by arranging for free delivery within a certain number of miles,” Kung said.
More recently, we’ve seen an eruption of patios popping up to accommodate the provincial government’s restriction on indoor dining at restaurants and bars.
“We’ve seen a lot of restaurants do this,” said Nancy Small, CEO of Tourism Richmond, stressing that all credit should go to the City of Richmond for speeding up the licensing of patio restaurants.
City spokesman Clay Adams said he has issued more than 21 permits so far, with more than 20 pending review. They also received a dozen inquiries from companies which may or may not lead to further inquiries.
Small says you can already see the impact of the city’s patio program.
“I was in Steveston (recently) and I was in a restaurant on the beautiful patio they created there. It was right in the parking lots, which would have been unheard of a few years ago. So I think about what you “see is really ingenuity and creativity. Like we – everyone – are literally trying to hang on with our fingertips right now.”
Tse thinks it may take a little longer for Chinese immigrants to get used to the concept of outdoor dining, but restaurants are still trying.
In addition, Kung said, eating at outdoor stalls is a popular tradition in Hong Kong.
“My friends and I are thrilled with the launch of the outdoor patio program in Richmond,” he added.
But whatever the strategy or innovation, it’s clear that “restaurants are working hard against all odds to keep foodies satisfied and happy, even with restaurant restrictions in place to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.” , Kung noted.
To read the 2021 Best of Richmond digital edition, click here.