THE HEROES WE NEVER KNEW WE NEEDED
This portrait series is a celebration of the everyday heroes in this pandemic.
(Documented from a distance)
As part of our efforts to capture some of the impact of the coronavirus on Hong Kong’s F&B industry, we caught up with a number of friendly members of our community. We heard from chefs, restaurant owners, front of house and we were lucky enough to catch up with young entrepreneur & co-owner of Wingman Jack Law and lovely front of house Jennifer.
Hi guys, how has the Covid-19 Pandemic affected your and your work?
Jack: For us it was scary as we opened our second restaurant about the same time as the virus hit during the first wave of cases. So we were like: “what now?”
So we had to focus on deliveries and take away. And we didn’t want to fire anyone either.
Deliveries have been more than usual for sure, but we actually realised we weren’t going to survive just with deliveries because of the fees. As on most of delivery apps, the higher percentage you pay to the platform the higher your rank, so you have more visibility to customers.
It was hard for us to compete because we still have to cover our costs. Food costs, staff costs, and then we have the rent for two shops on top of that, although we’ve been quite lucky to being able to negotiate some discount on rent with our landlords.
But anyways, now it’s better, customers seem to be coming back. Even though we have to keep these “social distancing separators” which for small restaurants like us – that can’t spread the tables 1.5 meters apart – they’re a life saver.
Also people are more educated on the matter and panic less. I feel lucky that we sell food and we are not a bar so we could stay open (bars were forced to shut for over a month in HK).
Also the funding from the government will help to survive and balance some of our loss.
Jennifer: This whole situation was a lot to handle for me. When the government regulations started limiting 4 people max per table my hours were cut and I had to stop working for a week and half. Which was ok because I could focus on some personal stuff but, I am happy that now I am back full time.
Although when I came back to work there were a lot more tasks and things that we had to take care of.
Make sure everything is sanitised, take people’s temperature on arrival, making sure we wash our hands as much as possible… My hands are super dry!
Jack, were you forced to lay anyone off?
Jack: Thankfully we didn’t have to fire anyone. We cut down some of our staff’s hours to save some cash, but that also meant Elliott (my business partner & chef) and I ended up doing more work to cover that. It’s ok you know, because actually with the new shop we had to be there all the time anyway to get the shop up to speed.
Anyways now we have all the staff back full time.
In general staff were quite scared to come back to work full time as it’s risky. Some of them even quit, I mean they had other reasons too, but when the virus hit they thought it was the right time.
Did you experience any angry customers?
Jennifer: Yes, you get guests that are p***ed off because they can’t get a seat. I mean, they can look at the place and see it’s full! Why would they get angry, there’s nothing I can do about it?!
Also people get upset when I check their temperature and I won’t allow them in if they’re over 37. I am happy to wait a bit for them to cool down since outside is getting hotter but if the temperature is still over after 5 to 10 minutes I can’t let them sit.
Jack: We had one that sat down and even ordered and then complained that she didn’t feel safe as the person sitting at the table next to her was too close. Even though the space is small we always followed the government regulations and put foam board barriers between tables to protect our guests.
But in general I think people are less freaked out now. There was a phase when information was super new and would generate panic right away.
Were you scared of coming to work?
Jennifer: I live in Kowloon and I tend to take more cabs now to come to work…contributing more to the economy (laughs).
I am a germaphobe myself so I wear a mask all the time and I am extra careful. When I get home at night, my family have strict rules to avoid contaminating the place: spray (with sanitiser) our shoes, our bags, everything we bring in.
I think my family are more worried about me going out after work, you know maybe having a drink with some colleagues, than worried about risks of coming to work.
And anyways now we are all bit more relaxed… did you just see all the people lined up for the new coffee shop next door? They wouldn’t have done that a couple of weeks ago.
People are back, are coming back.