Restaurants Surviving & Adapting in the Pandemic: China Moon
Like so many other places, California has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. One in three restaurants in the state will close down due to the economic fallout, and 76 percent of operators report that they urgently need rent relief. Against this backdrop, it’s important to illuminate the restaurants that are adapting and surviving during the pandemic.
That’s why we turned to Jonathan Chen, the general manager of China Moon in Laguna Niguel, California. A family business, China Moon has been delighting guests with award-winning Szechuan and Mandarin cuisine since 1993. Chen radically changed the restaurant’s operations at the start of the pandemic, and has stabilized his business with the help of ChowNow.
Since April 2020, China Moon has served 4,016 online orders to 2,859 guests, all while increasing check averages by 15 to 20 percent. Let’s take a look at how Chen and his team did it.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
When the pandemic hit, how did you adjust?
At the very beginning, we almost shut down, but we ended up doing takeout via the phone and quickly signed up with ChowNow.
We went from about a split of 20 percent takeout and 80 percent dine-in to 80 percent takeout and 20 percent dine-in. If we weren’t in a pandemic, our sales would be stronger. Around here, so many restaurants have closed. So many businesses around the world have closed. We’re just lucky to be alive.
Prior to the pandemic, we were already looking for an online ordering company to work with. We got a lot of emails from DoorDash and Postmates. I didn’t really like their pricing models, with the high fees, or how they treat their guests when it comes to a complaint. There’s no number that you can call to directly ask what’s going on. At ChowNow, I’m treated like an actual person.
How has online ordering changed your restaurant?
Without ChowNow’s help, I don’t think we would have been able to survive. A lot of guests didn’t want to come inside anymore. They wanted curbside or contactless delivery. We didn’t have outdoor seating at that moment. So instead of calling us, they would just download the ChowNow app or go through our site and order online.
Our check average grew by about 15 or 20 percent, and we increased guest satisfaction because they were in control of what they wanted to order. It’s all been pretty simple and easy.
What have you had to reevaluate as the pandemic has gone on?
The business model of the entire restaurant! The way we serve, the way we handle the equipment, the way we schedule employees, even our venue. We’ve shrunken down a few things. We haven’t changed the quality of any of our dishes or sauces.
Our landlords were nice enough to give us extra space in the parking lot, with haystacks and extra patio chairs, tables, and umbrellas. Now we have a patio for outdoor dining, and we’re hoping that we’ll be allowed to serve inside soon at 25 percent capacity.
How has this impacted your day-to-day?
We’re working on bottling our chili oil and our sauces, and coming up with a way of packaging our crispy noodles to create do-it-yourself kits. That’s what customers want now. They want to be able to enjoy the sauces and cook the food they love at home.
We don’t have as much overhead because we’ve realized that, back in the day, when we were busy, we had three servers, one host, one runner, and one busser. In fact, we don’t need the runner anymore. We don’t need the host. We can still do it with three servers and a busser. We’ve learned a lot through this adventure.
Are you communicating differently with guests now? How are they showing up for you?
I’m always on social media now. There’s a Facebook group called the Laguna Niguel Neighborhood Group and our restaurant gets mentioned there. I’m always on there thanking the guests and doing some marketing. We look at Yelp reviews, too.
We make randomized calls to guests to see how happy they are with the food and service. We’ll call about six customers a day and 99.5 percent of the time, guests are happy. When they aren’t, we can fix the situation right then and there.
We have those regulars who come in once or twice a week because they want us to do well. The community here in Laguna Niguel wants to support local restaurants and see us through the pandemic.
Discover More Client Stories
We’ll be publishing additional interviews detailing restaurants surviving during pandemic over the coming weeks. In the meantime, read more ChowNow client stories below.
- Pizzeria Saves Over $100K in Marketplace Fees
- How a Growing Restaurant Brand Made Over $450K with Commission-Free Pickup and Delivery
- A Family-Run Restaurant Made Over $120K with the ChowNow Team
- How a 65-Year-Old Restaurant Went Digital with ChowNow