Beijing locals keep dining on duck despite COVID

STORY: Restaurants may be shut to diners, but one Beijing eatery is finding sales of its iconic Peking duck are soaring.

A ban on indoor dining in the Chinese capital was introduced earlier in the month to tackle a rise in COVID-19 infections.

Meaning restaurants have to rely on takeaways to survive.

In a bid to replicate the dining-in experience, Ziguangyuan Restaurant has moved the art of carving the duck from table-side to the sidewalk.

The restaurant’s regional head Zheng Po says it has paid off.

"Our roasted Peking duck sales have gone up. I think our sales are even better than what it was before this round of COVID because of a few things. Firstly, we are providing the roast duck fresh. We are doing the business in a manner such that the ducks are freshly roasted, freshly sliced and freshly sold. Although the dine-in service is closed, we have moved our roast ducks outside so that customers can see the product."

To meet the new demand for the takeaway duck, Zheng's chefs get to work at 6 a.m., two and half hours earlier than when the restaurant used to open its doors for sit-down diners.

They roast the birds until they are a shiny golden brown, ready for the first takeaway customers who arrive as early as 8.a.m.

Even before the May 1 ban on dining in, Beijing's hospitality sector had been rocked by COVID.

In April, the city's catering revenue plunged 25.33% from a year earlier, according to Reuters calculations based on January-April data from the city's statistics bureau.

The stakes are high for Zheng, who likened the effort to help his business to a battle.

He declined to disclose his sales figures.

But his bid appears to have paid off, drawing lines of locals keen to keep some sense of normality.

"The businesses have of course been affected, we can't do businesses now. However, daily life is not affected. Businesses have stopped, but life goes on."