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Coronavirus Fears Lead To Slumping Chinese Food Sales, Restaurateurs Assure 'No Threat'

BOSTON (CBS) – A bustling kitchen is not hard to find in Boston's Chinatown.

"Welcome to the Avana Market Place. China's food court!" Raymond Choi said to customers earlier this week.

Yet he is aware some Chinese restaurants are now suffering because of the stigma surrounding the coronavirus.

"There is no threat and that's been proven and we've made sure that there is no threat," Bob Luz, the President and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, told WBZ-TV.

The Massachusetts Restaurant Association is hearing from Chinese restaurant owners across the state that sales are down.

"These people are amongst the hardest working and the last thing they can afford to have happen is for people to get caught up and take their minds places that they don't need to be," Luz said.

"This whole issue with Chinese restaurants being affected really hit home for me," Jeffrey Gates, Partner of The Aquitaine Group and MRA Chairman, added.

Boston's Avana Market Place. (WBZ-TV)

After more than 40 years in the restaurant world, Gates knows just how much every day counts.

"With food and meals it's definitely a perishable product and our time is very limited to sell our product to our guests so when we have an issue like this it can affect things quickly, the bottom line quickly," he said.

Many of the Chinatown businesses rely on people coming in and enjoying the delicious food.

The Chinatown food court, also known as the Avana Marketplace, is home to several of them.

"It seems they are concerned. It hasn't been raised to the level of suffering yet," Choi said.

"Yes, it is a little slow," Solim Ting, the owner of Friendship BBQ, added.

Avana Market Place in Boston's Chinatown. (WBZ-TV)

The Chinatown Food Court, dating back to the 1980s, and the new Friendship BBQ restaurant below it are joining forces to spread a message.

"I think it's more about education. They need to be educated about what the virus is and look at the facts there are more people dying from the flu," Ting said.

"Raise awareness that there is nothing to be feared," Choi added.

The Massachusetts Restaurant Association is also spreading the word through the hashtag #MassachusettsSupportsChineseRestaurants and telling their members to promote these establishments to their guests as well.

"These people put out tremendous food all the time and you shouldn't be afraid to eat it that's for sure, it is great," Luz said.

Chinese food in Boston. (WBZ-TV)

Loyal customers are not phased at all.

"No, no mask. Nothing. It is safe and I'm not scared." Leo Lai, a customer, said.

Their only concern is for the one place they can connect with and the very food that's kept the entire industry fed for decades.

"I think any great restaurant you go to in Boston and you ask the chef when the last time they ate in Chinatown was, they'd probably say within days or weeks," Gates said.

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