NANJING, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- He Chun, an IT worker in the city of Suzhou, eastern China's Jiangsu Province, did not expect that her first takeout order since the novel coronavirus outbreak would be from a five-star hotel.
The 30-year-old has been working from home due to the epidemic. When she logged into Eleme, an online food delivery platform, He surprisingly found that a nearby Shangri-La hotel has joined in the take-out business with various menus.
Without much hesitation, He ordered a set meal of braised beef brisket with radish, greens and rice that cost 36 yuan (5.1 U.S. dollars). "The price is rather fair, and the takeout from a five-star hotel tastes really good. I want to try some other dishes next time," she said.
The food delivery platform shows more than 1,600 users have ordered from the Shangri-La hotel. "The food is cheap and delicious! Highly recommended!" One user commented.
As catering businesses in China were ready to cash in on the Spring Festival holiday, the coronavirus outbreak has kept customers from dining out, taking a toll on the catering industry and catching restaurant owners off guard.
Nearly all meal reservations and wedding banquets have been canceled and a large number of restaurants suspended operations, according to a report issued by the China Cuisine Association.
Businesses in China have been gradually resuming work, and over 100,000 new brick-and-mortar restaurants have set foot in online take-out services, including luxury hotel brands like Shangri-La and Westin who offer meals from prawns and beef with truffles to beef burgers and vegetable salads, according to Eleme.
Meituan Dianping, another major online food delivery platform, said it has taken measures like "contactless" pickups to ensure the safety of food delivery during the epidemic. Its customers are informed of the health conditions of the chef, packer and rider that handled their food.
A Crowne Plaza hotel in Jiangsu's provincial capital Nanjing has also initiated take-out business as they suspended dine-in services. "We have about 20 orders per day for now because it is just getting started, and we'll be patient to get good word of mouth," said Li Xin, a chef of the hotel.
The luxury hotel said their takeout food was no different from that of other restaurants in terms of price, but of higher quality.
"During the special period of time, we are willing to offer more community-friendly services at affordable prices," said Yang Guang, a manager of the hotel.
Yang said hotels should not just wait for future customers during the coronavirus outbreak. "Take-out service is also a way to maintain customers nearby, which could be helpful for our future business," he added.