‘We won’t last three months’ — the businesses hit hardest by the coronavirus

Jiǎ Guólóng 贾国龙, the CEO of the popular Inner Mongolian restaurant chain Xībèi 西贝, recently gave a candid interview (in Chinese) to a consultancy firm about the coronavirus’s impact on business. Of note:

  • The epidemic’s timing — during the Spring Festival holiday period — has been devastating for the food and beverage industry. Jia estimates that Xibei may have lost $100 million to $115 million in revenue during this period.
  • Employee expenses take up 30% of Xibei’s costs, and because of a government mandate that employers keep employees on the payroll during this time, Jia worries that his business will be out of cash within three months. Of course, if the situation hasn’t improved in three months, we all will have much worse to worry about than the status of a restaurant chain.
  • In Jia’s words, during the SARS epidemic in 2003, “employees being on vacation just meant they were on vacation, but now that isn’t acceptable. When on vacation, they still need a salary, and that difference is just huge.”

Who should take up the burden? The government should at least help, Jia says:

“A responsible person is a good person. Taking responsibility for employees, by not dismissing them and continuing to pay out salaries; taking responsibility for customers, by making safe food that puts them at ease; taking responsibility for the country, by managing the enterprise and companies well.

“But us taking responsibility requires that the country support us. If the country does not support us, then in the end, the enterprises and good people that take responsibility will suffer.”

Are his concerns valid, or is he being overdramatic? Click through to read the piece, as translated by Jordan Schneider and Shaun Ee.

—Anthony Tao