Discover China: Hot pot at doorstep, Chongqing lifestyle revives amid epidemic

Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-18 21:12:39|Editor: huaxia

A cook from a hotpot restaurant in Chongqing prepares takeout food for online customers on Feb 15, 2020. (Wang Quanchao/Xinhua)

Under the guidance of Chongqing Municipal Commission of Commerce and relevant departments, 35 hot pot restaurants in the city started to provide consumers with zero-contact hot pot takeout service.

CHONGQING, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Tan Yayun picked up the phone on the first ring, grabbed her keys, darted downstairs and rushed to the compound gate for a takeaway package she had yearned for days and nights, a hot pot dinner.

For the prevention and control of novel coronavirus outbreak, residents in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, including Tan, have been encouraged to stay at home since the Spring Festival holiday in late January.

As a hot pot afficionado, Tan had to resist the temptation of the delicate cate in the past month.

"Oh finally, my favorite hot pot," said Tan as she picked her long-anticipated package.

Chongqing is one of the cradles of hot pot cuisine in China and enjoys a reputation for its outstanding gastronomy. For local residents, eating hot pot has already been embedded in their lifestyle.

Yet compared with takeouts, food freshly prepared, instantly boiled in a flavorful, bubbling stock is much preferred for the best taste of the ingredients.

China's catering businesses had prepared to cash in on the traditional high season during the Spring Festival holiday, but the sudden coronavirus outbreak has kept people from dining out, taking a toll on the catering industry and catching restaurant owners off-guard.

In 2019, earnings during the Spring Festival holiday accounted for about 15 percent of the total annual revenues of the catering industry, which topped 4.6 trillion yuan (about 656.6 billion U.S. dollars), according to the China Cuisine Association.

Nearly all meal reservations and wedding banquets have been canceled and many restaurants suspended operations, according to a report issued by the association on the epidemic's impact on the catering business.

Restaurants that previously relied heavily on eating-in earnings had to shift to take-out services, hoping the move could help ease the pressure from overhead costs such as rent and labor.

Under the guidance of Chongqing Municipal Commission of Commerce and relevant departments, 35 hot pot restaurants in the city started to provide consumers with zero-contact hot pot takeout service.

Staff from a Chongqing hotpot restaurant checks orders for delivery on Feb 15, 2020. (Wang Quanchao/Xinhua)

Consumers can order food through various platforms such as telephone, WeChat and takeaway-ordering apps. The takeout services were strengthened in the safety of purchase, processing and delivery, winning the favor of many consumers.

"We actually launched delivery service five years ago, but we have very few orders, only five or six per day," said Li Jie, president of Chongqing Qinma F&B Management Co., Ltd. which owns a nationwide chain brand Chongqing Qinma Hot Pot.

Li added that during the epidemic, the number of hot pot take-out orders surged to more than 100 orders a day.

Zhoushixiong Hot Pot, a local startup brand of Chongqing hot pot, also launched take-out business for the first time and went popular immediately due to its sound reputation built up in brick-and-mortar restaurants.

"At present, we receive about 400 to 500 take-out orders every day," said Zhou Dao, CEO of Zhoushixiong, noting that the number has maintained steady growth.

To help enterprises tide over the difficulties and boost confidence, the municipal government has taken a slew of policy measures to help small and medium-sized businesses, including financial support and tax cuts.

"We experienced a dramatic turnover drop during this year's Spring Festival, which has taught everyone in the catering industry a lesson," Zhou said.