By Finley Harnett
The management of Harrow’s much-loved Chinese restaurant Taste of China said they are ‘deeply concerned’ this week after takings dropped by over 60% due to Covid-19 fears.
Co-director Hitesh Thakrar, 60, said they had experienced a ‘complete downturn’ in trade at the Station Road restaurant, leaving them with no choice but to reduce their opening hours.
Mr Thakrar said: ‘We feel really, really sorry for our staff. Taste of China was a buzzing place, but now I feel so sad walking into there. Our staff feel for us as well. They know we can’t sustain losses and keep them in employment’.
Raj Thakrar, 63, Hitesh’s brother and co-director since 2018, added that workers were worried about their futures but ‘trying their best’ in the circumstances.
And Joey Tsang, 51, a consultant with over 12 years of experience managing Taste of China, said that customers had no reason to stay at home.
Restaurant staff have stepped up precautionary measures to allay customers’ fears following an ‘unprecedented’ loss of trade, Ms Tsang said.
An intense and regular rota of deep cleaning has been introduced, and workers have been ordered not to travel abroad until the coronavirus outbreak is contained.
The restaurant, which has been a Harrow staple since 1983, can fit up to 170 customers – now less than half that number are dining at peak times.
It is thought that Chinese restaurants and takeaways have suffered particularly badly from declining traffic after the virus, which has killed over 5400 at the time of writing, began in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
But Mr Thakrar said: ‘We are quite safe, like any other restaurant. Coming to a Chinese restaurant like Taste of China is not going to increase the risk of getting coronavirus’.
Though Mr Thakrar said it was not an option to close the restaurant, it remains unclear how devastating any future lockdown might be for small business owners and their staff.
Harrow councillor Adam Swersky said: ‘I am so sorry to hear the difficulties that Taste of China are having at this incredibly tough time. There’s absolutely no reason to avoid specific restaurants at this time’.
The Labour councillor added: ‘We will do everything we can locally to support Harrow businesses, including applying the business rate reliefs announced in the budget this week’.
The NHS have advised to wash hands regularly and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. If you experience a continuous cough or fever, it is essential to self-isolate for 7 days.
(Featured Image: Co-directors Hitesh and Raj Thakrar with consultant Joey Tsang outside Taste of China on Station Road on 12 March 2020 (Credit: Finley Harnett)