'We need to go': Menu detail 'scaring customers' amid coronavirus crisis

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

A Sydney restaurant is struggling to keeps their doors open as customers spooked by the coronavirus walk out the door after glancing at the menu.

Jenny, the owner of Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant Pho 76 in Campbelltown in Sydney’s southwest, says she is losing thousands of dollars every week as fear surrounding the coronavirus escalates.

She said this was in part due to people thinking the business was a Vietnamese restaurant, but leaving after seeing there was Chinese food on the menu as well.

Jenny said on Thursday a staff member told her a customer left the shop after being told they sold both Chinese and Vietnamese food.

“The lady said, ‘let’s go I’m scared about the virus’, and pulled her daughter to leave with her,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

Customers are leaving Pho 76 when they spot Chinese items on its menu. Source: Zomato

Jenny said even a group of regular customers walked out midway through their visit – a common occurrence now that has seen sales plunge 30 per cent since the global crisis.

“Out of nowhere they got up and said, ‘We’re really sorry, we need to go’, and then scrambled out of the shop,” she said.

“They’re my regulars, but I knew what was going on.”

Jenny said it was not an isolated incident and the same thing had happened frequently with other customers as groups would enter the store, sit down briefly but leave shortly after.

“That never usually happens here,” she said.

Customers are no longer frequenting Pho 76 like they used to. Source: Google Maps/Briggs Jourdan

Every day since Tuesday last week, the restaurant owner said up to three groups of people would leave before ordering during the morning hours of business alone.

“Our sales have dropped heaps. Other restaurants in Cabramatta, anything Asian, they’re either closed or not trading well,” she said.

Jenny said her business was losing about $5000 on a weekly basis and as a result the restaurant was likely to close its doors when the lease ends in May.

Ongoing financial strain

The coronavirus crisis combined with the shop flooding in recent heavy rain has put immense strain on Jenny and her family.

Pho 76 has remained in its Macarthur Square position for seven years, and has two other locations in Sydney’s south west, both of which have also experienced significant losses.

Business had dropped up to 30 per cent at Pho 76 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Source: Google Maps/Nora Szopory

“With all this stuff going on, it’s not going to bounce back up to where it was before,” Jenny said.

While it was distressing to feel the financial effect of people’s coronavirus fear, the business owner said she too had shared in the widespread anxiety.

“It’s not good for business. Our sales have dropped 20 to 30 per cent.”

A woman covers her face while visiting a Chinatown in London during the coronavirus outbreak. Source: AAP

Jenny said her businesses had been given the all clear from health and safety inspectors, and customers had no reason to fear consuming the food sold at either of her three restaurants.

The House Of Delight, a Chinese restaurant in the Melbourne suburb of Glen Waverley, was forced to close its doors for 14 days recently after a man in his 60s with coronavirus dined there.

The restaurant re-opened its doors on February 9 and Victoria Health later assured the public it was safe to be in the area and dine at the establishment.

Popular Melbourne Chinese eatery Shark Fin House in the city’s Chinatown was forced to close its doors this week as a result of poor sales as coronavirus continues to keep people away.

Co-owner Gabriel Chan said customers had dropped by 80 per cent as a result of the outbreak and he would likely have to keep the the doors closed permanently.

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