Consumers worrying about being infected by severe acute respiratory syndrome in public places have boosted the delivery business of local fast-food chains, such as McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. But the restaurants are not optimistic about their overall sales in coming months.
"We estimate that daily sales in our home-delivery sector almost doubled, based on feedback from individual outlets," said Jonathan Shih, general manager of Shanghai Hualian McDonald's Co Ltd.
Other food chains, including KFC and Pizza Hut, also reported an increase in delivery sales.
Xu Zhen, public affairs manager of Yum!Brands Inc, parent of KFC and Pizza Hut, attributed the rise in deliveries to consumers preferring to eat at home to avoid crowded restaurants amid the SARS scare.
But all companies agreed that with a decline in the total dining-out population, sales will be affected, especially when the delivery service business normally accounts for only 5 percent of their revenues.
Daily sales of the city's restaurants dropped by up to 70 percent over the last week, according to the Shanghai Catering Trade Association, which has not yet compiled overall figures.
"Our suggestion is that for those who used to provide business meals, it may work if they turn to target common people and adjust their menus," said He Yizhao, president of the association.
The association president noted that there may be opportunities to develop more open-air restaurants and delivery businesses.
(eastday.com April 28, 2003)