Chinatown restaurants turn to takeout during annual dining week
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When volunteers organized the first ever Chinatown Dining Week four years ago, the goal was attracting more people to the inner-city Edmonton neighbourhood's restaurants.
With restaurants closed to in-person dining due to pandemic restrictions, the event's structure has shifted, with participating restaurants offering takeout-only specials for $10 or $18 from Jan. 14–24.
As in previous years, the menu fare goes beyond Chinese cuisine, with Thai, Filipino, Indian and Vietnamese dishes available.
Co-organizer Sharon Yeo said Chinatown needs a boost in business more than ever.
"Chinatown was already being impacted by the economic downturn even before COVID became a reality here in Canada," Yeo told CBC Edmonton's Adrienne Pan.
Phong Luu, who owns the butcher shop and grocery store Kim Fat Market, said he is participating in the event for the first time because foot traffic has disappeared and the community's restaurants are struggling.
"For the past two years, we've had so many challenges, and with this pandemic that's happening, it's like a ghost town," he said Monday.
The pandemic has been hard on the restaurant industry in general, but Yeo said many Chinatown restaurants have faced additional obstacles with technology, marketing themselves on social media and adapting menus to be more takeout-friendly.
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Some dishes, like hot soup, do not necessarily travel well, but dining week restaurants are adapting fan favourites for delivery.
For $18, Liuyishou Hot Pot will deliver a hot pot combo with broth and either pre-cooked or raw ingredients.
Luu said he and his wife started delivering groceries and prepared foods during the pandemic — initially to help seniors who had stopped shopping at the market.
Weekly delivery orders have since quadrupled, and though this has helped the market make up for losses in other areas, Luu said running his business during the pandemic remains tough.
With some customers panic-buying supplies and others avoiding in-person shopping altogether, predicting the future has been difficult, he said.
Dining week organizers are encouraging Edmontonians to order by phone and minimize in-person contact with restaurant staff.
"We're hopeful that Edmontonians will come out and show some support to some of these small, family-run businesses again," Yeo said.
With files from Adrienne Pan