The coronavirus epidemic has taken a mammoth toll on China's restaurants. Places that usually make loads of profit during the Chinese New Year holiday are still trying to find ways to account for this year's losses. Many restaurant employees find themselves out of work, but some are making up for it.
Han Wei is one of many in the catering business who has lost work since the restaurant he worked at was closed. Before the epidemic, he worked for one of the most successful restaurants in all of Beijing, Jindingxuan. He was made manager after 16 years of hard work, but the company closed the restaurant he worked at as a precaution during the epidemic. The reopening of the restaurant is still unknown.
Like many family breadwinners who can't afford to stay unemployed, Han applied to be part of a staff relocation project initiated by e-commerce giant JD and its business partners. Now, he's a contract worker for JD's grocery chain, 7FRESH. He takes online grocery orders, gathers the items and delivers them to the dispatch site. He gets paid by the number of orders he processes.
Han admits it's different from what he used to do as a restaurant manager, but says he needs something to pay the bills at home.
Han's employer 7FRESH said it has temporarily taken up many employees from its business partners in the service industry. Duan Lixia, vice president and head of the supermarket chain, said the epidemic has had a huge impact on restaurants, hotels and cinemas, costing vast unemployment. On the other hand, the supermarket is short-handed because many workers are stranded at home quarantining. Duan said it's a "win-win solution."
Han's employer Jindingxuan said projects like this will help an industry that's hit near rock bottom. Li Mang, general manager of Jindingxuan, said the company has suffered a great loss because of the large cancellation during the Spring Festival peak season. She said one of the most popular stores now sees 10 percent of customers compared to before.
Li said although the company is struggling financially, it will pay its staff on time, as it has done so since its foundation.
Research from China's National Bureau of Statistics shows that only 7 percent of restaurants nationwide are still running. Many of them are helping their staff find short-term employment, instead of laying them off during difficult times.