Food / Health

Auckland Asian restaurants hit by coronavirus fears

17:15 pm on 26 February 2020


As coronavirus continues to spread offshore, local Asian businesses say they're starting to fail as customers stay away.

Profits have halved for some Chinese restaurants in Auckland, and with the increase of the minimum wage set to kick in, the timing could not be worse.

Dominion Rd is one of the city's most popular areas for Asian food, but at lunch-time on Wednesday the Wuhan Cafe is empty.

Around the corner at the Golden Garden, there are a few customers, but manager Tony Situ says many are staying away. Another restaurant manager, Steve Meng, told Checkpoint he has had to lay people off.

Last week's Restaurant Association member survey had 42.5 percent of restaurant owners reporting a downturn in customers compared to this time last year.

Just over 40 percent of those members believe it is due to fear of coronavirus.

It is not just food outlets suffering, but also health stores who sell about half their products to customers in China.

Kenny Dong at Neway Health Products said many people in China cannot afford to order products, as the reduction in flights has driven up costs.

Kimberley Miller runs a sushi restaurant in the city on Queen St in Auckland CBD. She knows how desperate these people are, so she has arrived for lunch on Dominion Rd with her husband and baby.

She said she has just returned from China where she had to be in quarantine for a fortnight, and then self-imposed quarantine here.

She praised both the Chinese and New Zealand governments for their efforts, but said there should be more support, especially as they stare down the looming increase in overheads.

She suggested there are other ways to help, such as tax breaks, or rent assistance. She said some Chinese landlords have already lowered the rent for their tenants to prevent them from going out of business altogether.