Restaurant Highlight: Sichuan Impression

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, restaurants have adapted their management strategies to accommodate new precautions in line with evolving public safety mandates. These measures, meant to protect the public from spreading the infection and to encourage everyone to follow self-isolation guidelines as closely as possible, require flexibility and ingenuity in areas that, previously, restaurants never had to consider adapting. In certain cases, owners have had to completely reconsider their staff, menu and service model.

Smiling pizza delivery man holding many pizza boxes in a commercial kitchen

Amidst this, some restaurants have found creative ways to adapt. Among them is the L.A.-based Chinese restaurant, Sichuan Impression.

How has the virus affected them?

Like many Asian-owned businesses, profits have suffered especially since the outbreak of COVID-19; Sichuan Impression estimates that they lost around 60-70% of their business in the first few weeks of the pandemic alone. However they’ve weathered the situation better than some, in part because they took early precautionary measures.

As early as January the owner, Lilli Lei, announced a plan to begin “testing” for infected patrons by using an infrared thermometer to check the temperature of every single customer who came in. They implemented this protocol in all three of their locations. Patrons who refused to have their temperate monitored were refused entry, with no exceptions. If the test registered an abnormality—a fever, for example—they were similarly denied service and staff would “immediately assist to contact the nearest medical service,” according to the restaurant’s official statement. Additionally Lei confirmed that they check their employees’ temperatures twice daily as an added precaution.

Though now we’re deep enough into this pandemic to know that such measures are insufficient, taking early action demonstrated how closely they were paying attention to the outbreak as well as their determination to keep their customers and employees safe. Preventative action, along with a willingness to continually alter their strategy as new information on COVID-19 arose, has helped all three of their locations stay in operation in a time when many other restaurants have had to shut their doors permanently.

On March 17th, Sichuan Impression officially announced through two separate Instagram posts that they would stop dine-in services at all three locations in compliance with the mandate from L.A. mayor, Eric Garcetti. They also provided their phone number on both posts to encourage customers to come directly to them with any questions, concerns or for additional information. This fosters a connection with their customers and shows their continued dedication to safety and compliance.

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ongoing adaptability

Sichuan Impression incentivized customers to use takeout and delivery long before the official mandate forced the closure of dine-in services across L.A. When they implemented the infrared thermometer, they also promoted brand new discounts and deals which they continue to offer sporadically.

All orders within a 5-mile radius of the restaurant qualify for free delivery. Customers also get 5% their entire order when they choose pick-up. These discounts started in January and continue to this day; in fact, Sichuan Impression displays updates on how they’re prioritizing health and safety directly on the front page of their website so that visitors immediately see their efforts to protect the community from this virus.

They also continue to offer deals on different dishes; for example, on March 22nd they promoted a chicken mushroom broth with rice for just $1 if you ordered between 5 and 6P.M. This encourages repeat ordering and customer loyalty, as well as demonstrating their dedication to supporting their community rather than hoarding profits at a time when many individuals need that generosity.

Sichuan Impression has implemented other features that simultaneously promote precaution and customer service, such as:

  • Partnering with Postmates so they can reach a wider audience.
  • Requiring the entire staff to wear gloves and masks while on the premises.
  • Redesigning their takeout and delivery bags to make them more protective; they all now come with a zip tie to safeguard more effectively against germs, and they’re also reusable for the customers’ convenience.

Four chefs working in a big kitchen at service time

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves and new government mandates emerge for businesses and customers alike, no doubt innovative restaurants like Sichuan Impression will keep adapting to this strange new world in creative and effects ways. Above all, prioritize health and safety for everyone; i’s the key to success.

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