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With No CNY Reunion Dinners Allowed, Chinese Restaurants Show How They’ve Adapted For MCO

Author’s Blurb: Every Chinese New Year, my family and I would head to our regular Chinese and Nyonya restaurants for our reunion dinners. Come to think about it, we otherwise never really dine there unless it’s CNY or to celebrate my grandparents’ birthdays.

With only 2 to diners allowed per table, these businesses that are known for accommodating large groups are struggling severely.

Now forced to innovate their CNY offerings, we managed to speak to Oriental Group and Hakka Restaurant to find out how they’re adapting this MCO.

Up To An 80% Drop In Sales

When the lockdown was first announced in 2020, Oriental Group was quick to adapt digitally. They developed their own delivery platform that functions as an ordering, payment, and delivery hub. Additionally, all of their 14 outlets are on GrabFood too. 

Despite that, the group told Vulcan Post that even before the MCO began, they already saw a significant reduction in revenue since CNY 2020. This was in comparison to 2019’s numbers.

“In 2019, CNY sales (which lasted 30 days) contributed approximately 19% of our yearly earnings. It comprised reunion crowds for annual dinners of both festive and social events,” said Lyn, who’s from the group’s marketing and PR department. 

The same could be said for 6-decade-old Hakka Restaurant. Located smack in the heart of KL’s Golden Triangle, the restaurant could seat hundreds of diners at a time pre-pandemic.

Hakka Restaurant could accommodate 400 pax inside their restaurant and 300 outside pre-social distancing / Image Credit: Hakka Restaurant

Its 3rd generation owner and director, Danny Chong, told Vulcan Post that the lockdowns and lack of tourists have greatly affected business.

With restrictions on the number of pax per table, many chose not to dine in our restaurants, especially because Chinese food is best eaten in a group at a round table to feast on a wide variety of dishes.

Danny Chong, owner and director of Hakka Restaurant.

Being a smaller business compared to Oriental Group, offering deliveries through DeliverEats and takeaways through their social media was all they could do.

Even with CNY packages this year, Hakka Restaurant still suffered an 80% drop in takings as of February 11, 2021. This was juxtaposed with a single day of CNY reunion dinners pre-MCO, which contributed to 1% of their total yearly earnings. 

Packing Up The Platters

Oriental Group’s decorated CNY dishes / Image Credit: Oriental Group

But adapting to takeaways and deliveries also correlates to extra work for kitchen staff and the front of house. 

Takeaway operations require a different job scope as much attention and care has to be put towards food handling and packaging. It then comes down to logistics and ensuring that customers receive their orders in its best form. 

“We had to market ourselves differently: that our cuisine is also takeaway friendly as our core business has always been centred around dine-ins due to the nature of our diverse menu,” said Lyn. 

Hence, Oriental Group put forth their CNY set menus that could cater to 2-10 pax in a household. For those living away from family, they’re offering individual dim sum bento boxes (RM38/RM88) and gift packages as seasonal items. 

For simplicity, they have a bundle set that includes the classic Yee Sang, Radish Cake and Nian Gao that come in a branded warmer bag (RM398). 

They can serve between 2-10 pax / Image Credit: Oriental Group

Hakka Restaurant meanwhile has set up 4 CNY packages that come in 4-5 courses. They feature traditional celebratory dishes to feed 4-8 pax, ranging from RM168 to RM538.

Chinese cuisine has one of the most extensive menus in the F&B industry with unique service standards. During the pandemic’s inevitable circumstances, the teams had to be versatile in executing new tasks to optimise takeaway standards. 

Meticulous training, education, and R&D were employed amongst kitchen crews and front of houses, all to ensure their new normal still matched the quality of their dine-in services. 

Hakka Restaurant’s dishes from their set menus / Image Credit: Hakka Restaurant

However, what Chinese restaurants might struggle with is in convincing Malaysians to purchase their CNY packages in the first place. For some families (including mine), the cost-effective approach is to DIY. 

For example, you could purchase pre-packed Yee Sang boxes for under RM40 as a base and add your own proteins like salmon. This can already feed up to 10 pax.

When it comes to the traditional Poon Choy, there are affordable canned abalones and mushrooms sold at grocery stores too.

Of course, not everyone is willing to put in the effort of setting up a feast for the family though. This is where the restaurants’ CNY packages would come in handy for a quick, stress-free home reunion dinner.

-//-

Oriental Group and Hakka Restaurant are just 2 of many Chinese restaurants struggling this CNY. Those of us who can afford to support local F&B restaurants can consider doing so, in order to ensure that our favourite places remain open for next year’s CNY reunion dinners and more.

By then, we at Vulcan Post are hoping that the pandemic would be a thing of the past too.

Lyn concluded, “No industry is spared by this pandemic and there is no foreseeable timeframe of its end—every business is fighting for survival and for the livelihoods of those who are on their payrolls. Unity is the key to economic survival.” 

Bottom Line: Although 2 seater dine-ins are allowed again, it’s a long time coming before the F&B industry recovers and reaches its pre-pandemic numbers again. With WFH helping us cut costs on food and other services, we can periodically lend a hand to our local businesses, no matter the industry.

  • You can learn more about Oriental Group here, and Hakka Restaurant here.
  • You can read about other MCO related topics here.

Featured Image Credit: Oriental Group / Hakka Restaurant




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