As some places in Europe and the United States begin the precarious balancing act of reopening their economies while attempting to keep the virus at bay, establishments that have managed to survive are facing new restrictions and risks of both the financial and public-health varieties. The measures adopted by restaurants here in Hong Kong—temperature checks for diners, dividers between tables, reduced seating capacity, time limits for eating, pared-down menus, and support for employees—could provide a look at what restaurant-goers and owners elsewhere will soon experience. “Things are now sort of slowly coming back to where they need to be,” Hussain told us. “I’m deliberately not saying ‘normal.’ Any restaurateur anywhere in the world waiting for things to return to normal is going to be waiting a long time.”
Hong Kong serves, too, as a warning of how deeply the food and beverage industry will be altered by the pandemic. Even though the city has largely contained the virus—only four people have died and fewer than 30 remain in the hospital—and avoided the type of strict lockdown measures imposed in other countries, restaurants here are reeling. And fending off the virus, Hong Kong has learned, is a lonely achievement: Haphazardly dismissing travel restrictions and coronavirus-related health regulations could quickly unravel its success, posing a problem for dining establishments dependent on out-of-town visitors. Tommy Cheung, a lawmaker who represents the catering industry in the city’s legislative council, forecasts that 40 percent of Hong Kong’s restaurants will be permanently closed by the fall. Hussain was only slightly more optimistic. “A third of the industry is just going to get decimated,” he said.