When coronavirus was taking a grip of China and the rest of the world looked on from a distance, cooking apps began to lead a culinary revival in the country. Are we seeing the same in the west?
Coronavirus decimated the restaurant industry in the affected areas. According to a report by the China Cuisine Association, 93% of catering businesses chose to close restaurants. Of them, 73% closed all their outlets, while 8% closed at least 80% of their outlets.
As more areas came under lockdown and millions of people’s movement became severely limited, cooking began to become the way people passed the time. We’ve seen the same thing happen in Italy and as people all of a sudden have more time on their hands and full fridges and cupboards in their kitchen they begin to look around for inspiration.
We’ve seen that cooking relives stress in a crisis situation. Cooking is about taking control and as an epidemic progresses, no matter how rational and calm you pertain to be, there is an underlying stress to deal with. When you are in the kitchen, you are in control, you know what will happen and you can provide for your family good, nutritious food.
"The epidemic simply cornered the companies and forced them to find a way out," said Su Jun, with the China Association of Trade in Services (CATS). "So some are cooperating with internet platforms to get out of the mire."
To help distressed restaurants and chefs, the China Association of Trade in Services connected them with food sharing platform douguo.com. Restaurants provided half-prepared ingredients, and the chefs designed dishes and menus. Douguo sold the meal plans and major courier company SF Express delivered to the public.
In tandem, Duoguo launched a cooking channel and invited as many as 1,500 chefs to collaborate with them in giving cooking classes to quarantined people at home. Many major major Chinese catering businesses joined in, Xibei, Meizhou Dongpo and Yunhaiyao.
While it could never plug the gap of lost revenue that now threatens the western world’s restaurant industry it does represent a pragmatic approach to connecting the needs of people and restauranteurs at this time.
Could this type of approach, if deployed in the west, keep restaurants from going under, at least until the situation improves enough for them to reopen?
The west has learned a lot from China’s experience with coronavirus and Wuhan, perhaps the restaurant industry can learn too. While in the case of China, it was major catering companies feeding the online cooking revival, there is no reason restaurants couldn’t do something similar in the west.
Instead of preparing fully cooked meals, could restaurants instead, prep ingredients for their dishes and then instruct people to cook them at home?