One of Hong Kong’s largest restaurant chains, Fulum Group, announced on Wednesday it would suspend operations at about 20 eateries after an employee was found to have contracted the deadly coronavirus.
The Hong Kong-listed firm said its management made the decision for the safety of customers and staff.
The closures came after another listed food chain, LH Group, last Thursday halted operations in 16 outlets, or about 40 per cent of its locations.
“The rising numbers of the coronavirus cases have dealt another blow to the weak market sentiment in retail as well as food and beverage sectors,” Fulum said in a statement.
Apart from liaising with landlords on rent relief measures, the firm would adopt a series of cost-control measures, it said.
In February, all its executive directors would have their salaries halved, while senior management staff would take a pay cut of 20 per cent.
“As the number of restaurants in operation has reduced, frontline staff will need to have three days of no-pay leave in February following established procedures. About 2,000 colleagues will be affected,” it said, adding that there was no plan to sack anyone.
The group had 78 restaurants by September 2019. Last Tuesday, it confirmed an employee at its Sportful Garden Restaurant in Wan Chai had caught the virus.
The worker was one of 11 relatives infected after a hotpot meal in Kwun Tong on January 26. Later, two work colleagues of the infected group also tested positive for the virus, which causes the illness Covid-19.
As virus fears continue to sweep Hong Kong, food outlets have taken a beating. Among them was restaurant chain 616 Hotpot, which on Monday announced the temporary closure of four of its 12 outlets.
And David Leung Chi-wai, chairman of Seafood Delight Group, said revenue at its 12 restaurants was down by between 60 and 70 per cent recently.
“If it worsens further, we may suspend our businesses,” he said.
Leung said the firm had to ask about 200 employees – around half its staff – to take unpaid leave, some of them for up to a week.
Ma Ming-hei, who owns a cha chaan teng, a local Chinese cafe, in Lok Fu said his takings were down by 60 per cent on weekends and by half during weekdays.
He said the firm could only resort to putting part-time staff on reduced hours, to cut costs.
To help boost business, food delivery platform Deliveroo cut its commission rate for restaurants by 5 per cent for a month from last Sunday.
Benefiting from the work-from-home policy widely adopted by city employers, the company reported its volume of orders jumped 60 per cent month-on-month in January.
Its rival Foodpanda has offered free delivery as a promotion since last Saturday, to the end of March.
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