Virus takes toll on eatery business

The Great Wok of China restaurant at Flagstaff in Suva. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

This pandemic has impacted a lot of businesses – large and smallscale operators – with most struggling to make any profit that they can.

While experts say this situation has greatly affected small businesses, there are some very old and well-established businesses that have experienced the drastic impact and have reinvented to operate in this challenging environment.

The Great Wok of China is a popular restaurant located at Flagstaff in Suva and has been in business since 1985, run under different owners.

In 1998 the establishment was taken over by Capro Ltd and has been running under their leadership since then.

Capro Ltd/The Great Wok of China managing director Beth Relos Zhu said over the past few years business was overall good, they had their regular customers who would always come back to taste their signature dish – deep-fried whole fish in Sichuan sauce.

“We also had our catering services that always bring me delight whenever our clients enjoy our food,” Mrs Zhu said.

However, things took a nosedive when the pandemic struck.

“This pandemic was especially bad. Because of the loss of jobs for a lot of people, we lost a lot of our customers as well, not to mention our Nadi branch, where business was partially dependent on tourists.

“It also stands to reason that if we continued to depend on our high price ranged meals, there will be fewer customers who can afford them.”

Mrs Zhu said business was notably bad at the start of the pandemic this year because takeaways were the only source of profit.

“The 5 o’clock compared to the 10 o’clock curfew greatly affected not only our business hours, but the potential dinner orders.

“In contrast to last year, after lockdown when situations became safer business resumed as usual, we are also not able to host any functions or catering.”

Mrs Zhu said their restaurant closed during the 72- and 52-hour curfews, but since the outbreak started in Suva, opening hours were only during lunch hours, through Monday to Sunday.

“Not being able to support a bigger team, some staff members were let go, although there is one kitchen hand and a helper that are on standby until the conditions alleviate.

“But for now, only close relatives and family are managing the business,” she said.

According to Mrs Zhu though their income stream has reduced since they started operating takeaway services only, she says the safety of their team can be assured to avoid further transmission of the virus.

Meanwhile, she said despite their best efforts so far, businesses had not improved at all since the pandemic began.

“I believe when everyone is vaccinated and the active cases start to decline will we ever see an improvement in the economy.”

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