As we roll into the fourth week of restricted dining, or is it the sixth? I can't keep track of this stuff to be honest!
Its like Groundhog Day, one day bleeding into the next, waking, prepping, waiting, cleaning, counting, and then back to doing it all over again. Everyday is the same as the day before, we brought the team down to the bare minimum, so even the team mates you see are the same each day and conversation topics dwindle down to the bare minimum, possibly a laugh if everyone is on the same page, but mostly just bored acknowledgement of each other, what needs doing, what could be done...and what we hope will herald the end of this nightmare.
So for a week, we shut our doors, that was a while back, in the hope we could do our part for not only the rest of Hong Kong, but also for our team, to keep us all safe. And we came back to the government pushing us to limited seats, all while the number of infections were so stupidly high, so we chose to offer take away only so we could protect the community and ourselves.
Yeah, that apparently wasn't good enough either!
The government restrictions have been wishy washy at best, gone from "4 people per table" to then "8 people a table" and now to "2 people a table and no dine-in past 6pm" all with absolutely no sense of when this will end or what is acceptable.
How is it acceptable to just divide a table with a make shift partition while squeezing 4 people on there when you have made a rule that it needs to be 2 to a table? And seriously, this is what the Food & Environmental Hygiene Department has suggested in person! Its just bizarre! I mean, I look at the coffee shop opposite us and even the one next door and I want to go in there and just shout at the top of my lungs, "What on earth is wrong with this picture???"
Doesn't matter though, I can empathize that they are desperate, hell, I too think maybe I should do the same but I am not going to sacrifice my integrity for what could be marginally extra cash and a double dose of covid19 infections across the board!
How bad is it?
Morale wise, we are keeping our shit together. Financially, its a joke. I am doing the math and even 2/3rds of the month in we have only just managed to earn enough to pay rent, forget the fact we still have to pay salaries and cover our food costing. That is just insane! That is how badly our income has been affected! Used to be we would spend the first week of each month earning the money worthy of rent payment, then the next two weeks to pay salaries and the final week to cover food costing and whatever else.
Why do I divvy it up that way?
Its because that is how I see all of this. Rent, we cannot side-step. Sure, we can pay it late, but it kinda cannot be avoided. Salaries we can always find a way to juggle part-time staff, which is what we have done, to cut down money going out, we have had to cut the part-time staff for the greater part of the month, and whats crazy about this whole mess is that even the government funding notice clearly states, the money is meant to "keep people employed" but how the hell do you do that when they put restrictions on your operations that drastically reduce income, and have reduced you to actually not having enough work for everyone on your payroll? You don't even have enough to cover things like rent, for crying out loud! They may be giving us money, but its nowhere near what we need to pay salaries for months on end!
People may sit there saying "Wow, 200K, that is great! Right?" and I want folks to know:
We need to be making at least 250-300K a month to survive on a full team.
You do the math.
You pay HKD85 for a wrap, you avoid getting anything else, no biggie, you are on a diet.
In order to make that money, lets just say 250K, we would need to sell nearly 3000 wraps.
Or say you do the set menu for HKD128, we would need to sell nearly 2000 set menus a month to make that happen. With being open 6 days a week, that is about 80 set menus a day.
Now you do the math on the government restricting you to no more than 2 people a table, we have room for approximately 10-12 people. Meaning we would have to turn the tables 6.5 times in just a lunch break as no dine in for dinner is permitted.
That is near impossible.
Most restaurants, a good shift would be 2-2.5 times of table turns.
6.5 times, not just a one off, but every single day, in order to cover your bills and to retain all staff.
Now do you understand how important it is to not loiter at your table once you are done? You may believe "My dollar is important and I am too"...but do you understand that if you choose to sit at your table well past your meal and there are people waiting for that table, in this day and age of short attention span, those people waiting may just say they can't wait and they will go eat somewhere else, and we have essentially lost that opportunity to earn that money.
Is it scary? Heck yeah. Does it feel like we are nickle and diming it on a daily basis? You betcha!
I have to almost extract myself from the shop so I don't sit there getting super stressed out. There is nothing I can do about how everything is going right now. This has everything to do with government restrictions, individual diners fears, our own concern to keep our team safe, and knowing full well that no matter how much we want a specific outcome, we honestly have no say in it.
Being positive, thinking of a great outcome, that is more like Ostrich tactics, stuffing your head in the sand and not seeing whats coming. Money is whats needed, not token money thrown at us by a government who has no idea how much our rent is or how we cant get out of our contract, or for that matter who still send us Government Rates tax bills at a time when we obviously could do with them scrapping taxes altogether, but we need to be able to make money the honest way, the way that is sustainable! And even customers need to understand how frikken desperate things are!
We can't just suddenly raise our prices, that won't work, what would happen is the number of people coming would go down and then the eventual tally of the income would be the same as if we had more people at a lower price. Its just a rock and a hard place with us stuck squarely in the middle of that mess.
Its heartbreaking. We have team mates who all have their own personal struggles, living with family or alone, and imagine living with family who are all going through this kind of messy situation, some who have no work and are depending on these kids I have working for me!
They are young, and yet, they have dependent parents! Its a lot to be responsible for! So how do you go about keeping them sane, making them feel supported, not just work wise, as that is the easy part, but to ensure they feel emotionally supported while you yourself are deliberately doing everything you can not to sink into deep depression?
I just do what I can. I love them, you know? I love my team. If I could adopt them all, I would. I would do everything I can to encourage and nurture them to succeed, and I feel so painfully restricted with things being the way they are. I feel like all I can offer them is a safe space to be themselves, to speak their minds, to feel like part of something, and to earn a living that gets siphoned off to fund others. There is no real growth for them now, there is no growth anywhere.
People ask me, "How is everything going?"
And I just don't want to tell them anymore. Whats the point?
Whats the point in sharing the negativity? It makes someone else feel shit too!
So I just bring it down to, "yeah, you know..." or whatever.
Whatever is what it is. Its just one big shitshow.
My poor husband is losing his mind homeschooling the kids, the school is laughing as they collect our money, and they are seriously lying to themselves if they believe kids would do the work unassisted!
You wanna know what one of their lessons was last week?
It was the completely ironic topic of how to reduce screen time!
Prior to this term they gave us a timetable of topics and we did what we could, but now they expect kids to be checking in on Zoom practically every lesson! Do you know what this means?
You are stuck schooling your kids and monitoring them for a whole frikken school day!
We have no helper, and no, there is absolutely no shame in not having one! Can we afford one? Yes, but we are glad we let ours go in January, years of getting shafted was what finally made us take that plunge. But the school has got to be kidding themselves if they think we could simply leave the monitoring of two children and their homeschooling to a domestic helper who maybe could have a high school education that happened over 2 decades before!
Its not fair on the helper, its not fair on the kid and its completely ludicrous that they are so self-congratulatory about the whole set up!
Am I pissed off? Yes, but not anywhere nearly as pissed off as my poor husband who has had to bare the brunt of the children feeling put upon all while he too is trying to cope with this single handed while I spend my days freaking out about who will rock up and help us prevent food wastage at the shop!
I just want for all of this to be over, I know everyone the world over does, and we are waiting on a tsunami of mental health problems to hit us in the coming year, that will cost more than all the hospital bills of actual covid19 victims combined! But what do they care? Medication makes money!
No access to a gym, no ability to work out outdoors without a suffocating mask, no movies, no bars, no dinners out...we are all feeling this and we haven't even been restricted as badly as those in other countries that went into full lockdown!
Can you imagine staying put in a HK middle income/lower income apartment with 4 or more people and nowhere to go? Hell, you know you'd get to fisty cuffs!
I decided to give myself a "haircut" and then ended up buzz clipping my hair down to 9mm! I locked myself in the bathroom for a good 30 mins and cried. Like, what? Who knew that No9 meant "9mm!" duh, like that ought to be common sense, right? Nope, I obviously wasn't thinking! HA! But I am genuinely enjoying the liberation of this mistake and am almost worried I may never want to grow my hair back out again!
The last year of financial hurdles have somehow made me go grey almost overnight! Heck, I used to feel pretty chuffed that I made it to 38 with barely any visible grey, and now....pshhh, I even found a grey eyebrow hair the other day! I am not even 44 and I may end up with a full head of grey hair by the time we end the lease!
All that aside...I am glad I am alive. I am glad we are experiencing this as its put the most important things into perspective. I am grateful my parents are in good health and that my siblings are doing well. Well, at least my brother is, even if he is drinking like its going out of style. I haven't really been in touch with my sister since Christmas last year...it was a messy family whatsapp brawl that tipped that scale and had me say "enough is enough". Our family is weird that way, but mainly its always with her that I go through this, we may not talk to each other for a few years or even see each other for a few years, and then we have had enough time go by to let bygones be bygones and we just pretend like nothing happened.
I watched this show on Netflix called, "Animal Kingdom". Contrary to what it sounds like, its not a nature documentary, its a crime drama about a highly dysfunctional family, and the lies, the deceit, the sheer f**ked-upness of what it is to be a close knit family, and something in me just clicked, like, "Damn, this is how it is in real life!" not that we are out robbing banks and snorting coke off the dashboard or some such, but life is messy when you have a bigger family! Each person has secrets they keep from someone else but feel inclined to tell one person with the insistence they don't tell anyone else, etc.
I am rubbish with secrets!
Its why I do my best not to lie, coz I suck at it, and if someone ever asked me for the truth, I would get totally dodgy eyed and fess up!
Yeah, so I can keep secrets that have no link to other people, but in that kind of close knit situation, family and a group of friends, don't go telling me the deepest darkest secrets unless you want to tell others! You have been warned!
Anyway...that was in the realm of TMI, but hey, you can tell I am missing my family, and I am digging deep to find gratitude and the lighter side of life.
So for now, I sign off, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I want to send as much loving kindness out into the world...so maybe I need to sit and meditate once I am done with my meetings today. And to try to plot taking over the world, something like that has to be in the works, amirite? Hehe.
My name's Lisa. I love to cook, I love to laugh, I love to write. I don't always believe I have the time for creating, and now I am going to work on simply going with the flow, with the food, the restaurant, the writing...and if I can, for one moment, spread a little joy along the way, well, its worth the effort.