My husband and I have not ventured out for food since the lockdown began in the UK in March. Yesterday, we went out for our first meal out post lockdown at Chung Ying, Birmingham. Chung Ying is where my parents held their wedding reception nearly 37 years ago. It is also where my husband and I have eaten dim sum and noodles on many occasions over our 17 year relationship. We missed having dim sum and as much as ordering takeaway from Chung Ying is great – it’s not the same. Being in the restaurant with all the smells and noises really add to the experience of eating out.
I won’t lie – the idea of eating out for the first time in months did make me feel a little anxious. Will people social distance when out and about? Will I still receive abuse for being Chinese and daring to exist? How will the experience of eating out feel with additional protective measures in place?
It seems that businesses have done a lot of preparation ahead of reopening in Birmingham. The challenges of rebuilding this city will be relentless over the next few months (and possibly years) as the local and national economies suffer the after effects of covid-19. Not to mention the recourse from everything else happening in the UK politically. Our favourite venues will need support and patience from us more now than ever. I am certainly not suggesting that people return to life as normal today. We all need make adjustments to stay safe and protect our loved ones. Also, the idea that we are under obligation to eat/go out is ridiculous. No one should be doing anything that they feel comfortable or unsafe doing during a pandemic.
There are ways to support your favourite local venues without venturing out. We have the internet at our disposal so a social media review or share is free and helps enormously. Even just talking up your favourite businesses on social or your social Zoom call will be appreciated. The fear of our small independent businesses being forgotten is heartbreaking.
Also, buying gift vouchers or ordering takeaways and collections will help in this transition period. Chung Ying is continuing to offer a 25% discount on takeaways and deliveries ordered through their website despite the restaurant reopening. Adapting to the changing environment will be crucial to help businesses reach their customers and thrive. It’s fair that customers will have to adapt too.
Our visit to Chung Ying was different to usual due to the protective measures in place. They have made a number of adjustments to their business to make their customers and staff feel safe:
- Bookings (by email) to avoid queues in the rain or hangrily hunting somewhere with capacity
- Tables limited to six people
- Temperature check and hand sanitiser on arrival for every customer
- Customers to fill in a contact sheet at the table for test and trace
- Table and chairs cleaned and sanitised between every customer
- Outdoor dining area fitted with space heaters and mixed screens allowing ventilation, and protection from the elements and noise
- Staff wearing face masks/visors, and respecting social distance where possible
- Music on low volume to reduce shouting/raised voices
We dined in Chung Ying’s newly fitted outdoor dining area, cheekily referred to as “Chung Ying Garden” (if you know, you know). I did wonder if this was going to work but the set up is comfortable and allows for the changing British weather. My husband and I were at ease despite the unfamiliar additional safety procedures in place.
The vegan options at Chung Ying cover a range of dim sum, main and side dishes. It was pleasing to find some old favourites on the menu again. As we could take leftovers home, we decided to order everything we fancied!
The food (especially the dim sum) was delicious. Delivery is great but textures can suffer with long delivery distances. Or maybe it’s because we didn’t have to wash the dishes after eating that made this meal so tasty! I’m still happy to order takeaway as they offer plenty of tasty vegan dishes. We live nine miles from the restaurant (they deliver up to 15 miles away) so I am careful to order those dishes that I know will travel well or can survive a little reheating at home if needed.
As venues adapt to survive, we should all expect things to be a little different for a while. The hard working teams serving us will appreciate a little patience and understanding as they navigate additional procedures and pressures. For our small independent businesses, their livelihoods depend on this. If we want to keep our vibrant mix of independents that complement and challenge bigger brands then the actions we take now are vital.
It goes without saying but please – maintain social distancing, wash hands thoroughly and frequently and wear face masks/coverings as appropriate (if possible). Being extra considerate will make a massive difference to so many people during covid-19 and as we move forward.
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