Updated February 23, 2020 14:19:29

Yidi Pan started receiving booking cancellations at his Chinese restaurant in Perth’s suburbs immediately after the deadly coronavirus started making headlines.

Key points:

  • Many diners are steering clear of Chinese restaurants due to coronavirus fears
  • The Health Department has assured people it is safe to dine at Chinese eateries
  • Premier Mark McGowan has urged people to support local Chinese businesses

The normal hustle and bustle of his regular weekend dim sum service at Emperor’s Kitchen has now slowed to an unrecognisable pace.

“We can tell the local people are getting scared [to go to] Chinese restaurants,” Mr Pan said.

“Generally for the dim sum restaurant we will have queues during the weekends … now we’re not seeing the queues like before.”

Mr Pan said business had dropped by about 50 per cent.

He has no doubt the reason is people are worried about the spread of coronavirus.

The mainland China travel ban is also hurting business, with droves of tourists being forced to cancel their travel plans.

“We received almost 4,000 cancellations [from Chinese tourists] in just three weeks,” he said.

“We have to minimise our stock, we have to cancel all the orders, we are cutting the staff shifts.”

Mr Pan is empathetic to community concern, but is struggling to navigate the reaction as the virus spreads.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do … we try to survive as much as we can,” Mr Pan said.

“It’s hopeless, you know.”

‘I don’t know how long I can survive’

The owner of the Perth CBD’s Chilli Panda has also recorded a major drop in trade.

“[There has been a] 60 to 70 per cent drop off in the last few weeks,” Allen Zhang said.

“The reality is I lost over $1,500 every day, every single day … it’s our only income.

“I don’t know how long I can survive this situation.”

Mr Zhang has also cut back staff hours and supplies.

He has offered free takeaway delivery to entice customers, but it has had little impact.

Mr Zhang estimated he could afford to stay at his current rate of business for about three months — but any longer and he feared he would have to close his doors.

“I am really worried, I worry for the future,” Mr Zhang said.

“I am a hardworking person and it is happening to all the small business owners … it’s hopeless right now.”

Anecdotally, the drop off in customers is being felt by restaurants across Perth despite assurances diners have nothing to worry about.

The Health Department has moved to ease community concerns.

“It is safe to visit Chinese supermarkets or restaurants,” a spokesperson said.

WA Premier urges public to support businesses

Premier Mark McGowan urged people to support their local Chinese business after a dinner in Northbridge’s Chinatown this week.

“At some of the businesses they were saying trade had dropped off by 50 per cent,” Mr McGowan.

“For some reason people are assuming that because this illness has originated from a province in China, that you shouldn’t go to your local Chinese restaurant.

“Can I encourage people, please don’t do that. It just hurts a local business of people who’re locals trying to do the best for themselves and their family.”

It is a sentiment the business owners hope will be heard.

“Come and eat — it’s safe,” Mr Zhang said.

“I understand, I know people are worried, that’s the situation right now. I totally understand but for me, I am worried more.”

More on the coronavirus outbreak:

Topics: state-parliament, states-and-territories, travel-health-and-safety, hospitality, infectious-diseases-other, health, diseases-and-disorders, respiratory-diseases, perth-6000, wa, australia, china

First posted February 23, 2020 11:13:35