Stigma with Chinese products and drop in tourists leave Chinese restaurants in crisis

Chinese restaurants suffer more breaks in the business than national restaurants due to the stigma associated with products from China, a country where the new coronavirus was first detected, and because the Asian tourist stopped visiting Portugal.

Hugo Correia / Reuters

“Many people, in the wrong way, made an association, often due to lack of information and fear, but essentially they are not well informed, and thought that they could possibly be infected in a Chinese restaurant and this is obviously not true. They are safe restaurants like so many others as long as they comply with the rules. But this fear made the problems a little more acute ”, felt by Chinese businessmen in the restaurant industry, said Daniel Serra, president of the national restaurant association PRO.VAR.

The president of the Chinese League in Portugal, Y Ping Chow, who also owns the Chinese restaurant in Porto - King Long - and president of the Portugal-China PME Chamber of Commerce, told the Portuguese agency that businessmen are registering breaks in the order of “50% to 60%” in Chinese restaurants in Portugal, both in terms of in-room attendance and take-away service, also assuming that the crisis in catering is more severe with Chinese restaurants, because they lived a lot of the clientele Asian, who is no longer able to travel to Europe.

“Chinese restaurants had a bigger drop [than Portuguese restaurants], because they work a lot with Asian tourists. At this moment, there is a huge drop in this type of tourists ”, acknowledged Y Ping Chow.

In Porto, the owner of the King Long restaurant, opened more than 45 years ago at Largo Dr. Tito Fontes, next to Travessa Alferes Malheiro, adds that the break was also felt by Portuguese 'habitués' customers, who are also feeling the economic crisis, cuts in wages and less frequent use of space.

"They prefer a restaurant with lower prices", he says, safeguarding that the Chinese restaurant "is not expensive", but it will not be for "having meals every day".

Despite the deep crisis installed in the Chinese catering sector, and that Ping Chow believes that another "year and a half" will continue, the Chinese delicacies with more demand on the menu in this pandemic season have been the "meat dishes", mainly from “Duck and chicken”, but also “some cow and pig”, he described.

"Peking duck or lacquered duck is very well known and the customer usually likes it," he said.

Gabriel Torres and his daughter, Mafalda, decided to break the fasting of Chinese food that they had done during the pandemic since March and now returned in August to the “family tradition” of going to taste a “soey gambas shop”, “chao chao rice” and “ Chinese bread ”.

“It is the first time since the pandemic began. We came to eat the usual, which is our tradition, ”said Gabriel Torres, while disinfecting his hands at the entrance to the Chinese restaurant, the first to open in Portugal 54 years ago and part of the Porto de Tradição program, a policy that the Chamber do Porto implemented to safeguard local and traditional commerce.

The lover of Asian cuisine assumes that he is not afraid of Chinese food. “We must have confidence in institutions in Portugal such as ASAE (Authority for Food and Economic Security)”, declared Gabriel Torres.

Ashamedly, for not mastering the Portuguese language, Chow Feng Ying, owner of Restaurante Chinesa da Ponte, next to the upper deck of the Luís I Bridge, confesses to Lusa that the business “is very bad”, because tourists stopped going there eat.

“It really is a crisis. Tourists prefer to eat Portuguese ”, explained the businesswoman, referring that, due to the pandemic, customers prefer to stay on the terrace of the Portuguese cafe to eat“ bread and drink beer ”.

The Chinese restaurant, which before the appearance of the new coronavirus was part of the itinerary of oriental tourists who arrived in the city of Porto, currently registers losses of 50% to 60% in customers.

The cultural and linguistic barrier is also an obstacle in the access to government support for Chinese restaurant businessmen to be able to adapt to the new reality.

According to Daniel Serra, many Chinese restaurant entrepreneurs are “benefiting from the 'lay-off', but are not benefiting from other support that exist, such as the Adapt program, a program implemented by the Government with benefits in depth. lost to adapt the restaurant to the context of a pandemic and what he says is “of the ignorance of the majority”.

The Adaptar program provides, for example, support for the placement of acrylic barriers, masks, 'contactless' payment systems or a product sales website, he explained.

Covid-19 is transmitted by a new coronavirus detected in late December in Wuhan, a city in central China.

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