Thu, May 15, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Restaurants, hotels focus on catering and take-out

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

Restaurants and hoteliers are focusing on take-out services and selling food via new channels as consumers avoid crowds due to their fear of contracting SARS.

Din Tai Fong (鼎泰豐), a Chinese restaurant on Taipei's Yungkang Street area known for its xiao long bao (steamed pork dumplings), said it had started to sell frozen sticky rice dumplings in Cosco Taiwan since last Sunday.

"Ever since the SARS outbreak started to get worse in late April, we have seen sales decline by nearly 30 percent from [March]," said Kenwaul Hsu (許燕閣), a manager at Din Tai Fong.

In the past, people had to take a number and line up at Din Tai Fong. Now, they don't have to make the usual one-hour wait for a table during either lunch or dinner time, Hsu said.

Din Tai Fong is also negotiating with Eastern Home Shopping Network (東森購物) about selling frozen buns and chicken soup on the network's shopping channel. Hsu added that he hopes the move would help boost sales.

Shin Yeh (欣葉), a restaurant chain with 11 outlets nationwide, also decided to switch its focus to take-out services.

"We have seen tremendous sales growth in to-go orders," said Erica Chen (陳臆如), Shin Yeh's deputy marketing manager.

Last month the chain's outlet on the corner of Hsinyi Road and Kuangfu South Road generated NT$16,000 sales from take-out services, accounting for 2 percent of the outlet's total sales.

In addition, Shin Yeh is considering promoting its catering service for the first time.

"We seldom offered catering services before, but now we look at it as a cash cow," Chen added.

Hoteliers are also brainstorming for new business.

"Since the core business is sluggish, we are forced to be more creative for new business models," Evelyn Kung (龔臻瑜), a marketing director at the Howard Plaza Hotel (福華飯店) in Taipei.

Starting Monday, the hotelier set up small booths in front of its main door to sell dim sum during the lunch and dinner rushes.

"The reaction was very impressive," Kung said. "We sold some 200 dim sum meals in less than one hour that day."

Sales at the hotelier's restaurants have dropped 30 percent compared to the same period last year.

The average occupancy rate of hotels in Taipei last month was less than 20 percent, Chen said.

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