Enterprise Chennai

How a Chinese restaurant in Chennai managed the pandemic

Satish Thomas, manager at Liu’s Waldorf on Sardar Patel Road, excuses himself midway through a conversation, as a food delivery order had landed suddenly on his plate. Since the pandemic began, the manager doubles as the delivery person.

Liu’s Waldorf, which is known for its non-vegetarian fare, especially chilli pork and beef preparations and affordable food, seems to have managed the pandemic well.

It is a Chinese restaurant run by members of a Chinese family.

Wang I Hsing, also known as Peter, is the third generation in the family running the restaurant. Started in 1975, the place is owned and run by a Chinese family and our chefs are also Chinese therefore our years of experience with Chinese food is authentic and special, says Wang.

How a Chinese restaurant in Chennai managed the pandemic

With Anna University and IIT-Madras in the vicinity, the restaurant enjoys a steady flow of patrons.

“Our earnings have dropped drastically, but I am grateful to the investment made by my ancestors who had bought two grounds of the plot for ₹75,000 then and opened the outlet or I would be shelling out lakhs on rent alone,” says Wang.

Until October last year, the restaurant did not open its shutters even for delivery. Of the 17 staff on its rolls, 11 left for their hometown when lockdown was first announced in the city last year. The place now runs with six of them and all of them take up additional roles, except for cooking which is obviously best left to the experts.

“Even after the government allowed restaurants to open it did not allow dine-in for some time, so I had to ask my small team to multi-task or it would have been difficult to meet the operational expenses of running the place and paying the staff salaries,” says Wang, whose family also runs a few beauty parlours in Chennai.

The outlet did not see any big advantage in tying up with an online food aggregators.

“We tried it for two months but when we were not getting any margin it was not feasible to continue with such an arrangement,” says Wang. Two bikes owned by the outlet are pressed into service for the staff to deliver food to customers.

Old-time customers keep coming back for the food we offer, say the staff.

Currently, Wang is the only chef at Waldorf. “To make sure we serve authentic food, I do all the cooking and the staff only help me in getting the ingredients ready. Some of them are recipes that have been handed over to me by my parents,” he says.

Goodwill gesture by customers

Some of the restaurant staff have received a helping hand from customers thanks to the rapport they have built with them over the years.

Satish Thomas, who is working at the restaurant for the last three decades, points out how a few customers helped him in cash and kind last year. “One customer sponsored me provision for a month; another offered me a choice of cash or kind and I chose the former as I had to pay the rent for my house. Similarly, Peter’s wife and daughter helped me with financial assistance,” says Satish.

He sometimes has customers calling to enquire about the place and their well being. Says Satish: “I am longing for those days when an old student of IIT-M would call our land phone number (that has not changed), asking to reserve a corner table for a batch reunion.”


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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 10:15:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-taste-of-legacy/article35507085.ece

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