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Resilient Seattle restaurant ready to serve again

Janice Nesamani
Northwest Asia Weekly

Japanese comfort food at Maneki restaurant (photo from Maneki restaurant’s Instagram)

For Washington State, Wednesday, June 30th came too early! It not only gives us a respite from the almost melted 100-degree hot weather, but it also brings us closer to normal life after Covid-19.

Governor Jay Inslee announced in May that our state can remove most Covid-related business restrictions on June 30. This means that your favorite restaurant can now be open at full capacity, you don’t have to keep six feet away from other diners, and if you get vaccinated, you can say goodbye to masks.

For more than a year, Seattle’s restaurants have been overcrowded, while state and health officials have tried to control the epidemic. The restaurant owners had to shut down, operate only as a takeaway, fire employees, and use their creativity to keep their business alive.

Maneki storefront (Photo: John Liu)

Take the 116-year-old Japanese restaurant Maneki as an example. During the pandemic, Maneki had to shut down, but it gained a new life. Cash donations from customers poured in to help keep the organization running.

The beloved and supported Zhongshan decided to only operate takeaways and launched a website, manekiseattle.com, where customers can place orders online. This restaurant has learned many lessons from the pandemic. For Zhongshan, there are two outstanding.

Nakayama said: “First, we have the ability to be highly adaptable in an industry that can be so easily created or destroyed without sustained financial stability.” “Second, don’t underestimate the compassion and good-neighborliness of our community. Love. We appreciate all the care and support given when we need it,” she said.

Nakayama, who has never provided a takeaway service in the restaurant’s history, sees it as an opportunity for Maneki to continue what her customers like. Given the small kitchen area, this restaurant is studying how to provide convenient takeaway details while maintaining a first-class dining experience.

Nakayama said: “We may have to wait patiently for us to determine what we can offer,” and hinted at what their takeaway might include, “Everyone seems to miss our sushi and sashimi.”

In the past year, Maneki had to reduce staff and working hours, and some of their experienced workers had to find additional jobs elsewhere to make ends meet. As the restaurant reopened, Maneki was cautious.

Nakayama said: “Due to limited staff, our approach will be to reopen more slowly so as not to overwhelm our chefs.” She confirmed that recruiting in the service industry is challenging because everyone is looking for new replacements. Compete for the same talent.

“We want to attract enthusiastic applicants who want to be part of the Maneki community and heritage,” she said.

However, things were not calm in the restaurant during this period. Puget Sound Energy’s US$45,000 investment allowed the restaurant to increase energy efficiency through better lighting and energy-saving equipment.

The dimmable lights in the tatami room and the history of walking Maneki in the picture are what customers expect when they finally get a table in the restaurant.

“To be honest, we still care about our elders,” Zhongshan said. “We know progress is being made, and we look forward to seeing those smiles again in our tatami room soon.”

Haohao Seafood Restaurant (Photo: Assunta Ng)

“Covid has a profound impact on us,” said Vivian Xiao, owner of Ho Ho Seafood Restaurant. “We have very few customers because everyone is afraid to go out to eat. Then, during the pandemic, things become very expensive. When customers come in without a mask, we will provide one. The price of masks has been rising all the time. The cost is more than $1. We have to use plastic gloves to serve our customers—a pack of 100 pieces can cost up to $20. This does not include the increase in food prices or the price of takeaway boxes.”

Ho Ho reopened on June 30. The restaurant requires customers to wear masks to ensure everyone’s safety.

Dadong team (photo provided by Dadong Restaurant)

If you miss the warm face of Harry Chan behind the counter, read the handwritten specials on the mirror or just order your favorite dish at Dadong Restaurant, you will soon be able to go back there and pretend that the pandemic never happened. .

Chen said: “Due to the pandemic, we don’t have to lay off staff.” On the contrary, the restaurant reduced its operating hours when it was in trouble last year. This will save Chen the trouble of finding new employees in a job market where it is difficult to find good employees.

When things start again, Chen expects that business will return to 70-80% of the pre-pandemic level.

“I think people will still hesitate to come out for a meal, but we always want the best results,” he said.

During the pandemic, slow business forced Emerald Garden to increase its delivery business. Eric Chan’s family owns this restaurant, and he delivers takeaway service to Factoria to provide dumplings to customers in the eastern district. To make things more difficult, the restaurant was vandalized and stolen twice in 2020.

Unable to see their favorite restaurant enclosed with wood panels, muralists covered wood panels with artworks, sparking a movement, seeing other artists covering the windows of the entire International District with wood panels, conveying a message of hope and unity. This information has become a sign of community and resilience during particularly difficult times.

The pandemic has changed many things in Emerald Garden, but Chen said: “We will do what we have been doing here-serving people as usual.”

Janice can be contacted in the following ways info@nwasianweekly.com.

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