Many Auckland Chinese restaurants may be on the brink of collapse as fears over the coronavirus outbreak continue to drive away customers.
Business at Auckland establishments has dropped byup to 60 per cent over recent weeks, and the NZ Chinese Cuisine Association says many may be forced to shut.
Association board member Harry Cai said most of the association's 500 members were "bleeding" and struggling to keep afloat. Cai, who is the general manager of Guangzhou Hotpot in Newmarket, said his restaurant has had more than 200 cancelled bookings since the coronavirus epidemic started.
The communal hotpot - a much-loved favourite over the Chinese New Year season - became a casualty after reports that 10 members of a Hong Kong family got infected with the virus after sharing a hotpot meal.
"After that news report, our business got affected along with all other hotpot restaurants here too," Cai said.
In Browns Bay, Panda Hotpot had a sign posted on its main door stating it would be closed for nine days "due to the novel coronavirus and considering public health and safety to protect our staff and customers".
Cai said other hotpot restaurants in Takapuna and elsewhere, had been forced to shut "for economic reasons".
"To be honest, our turnover now is not enough to cover cost. I think we can survive two or three months in this environment, but there are many others who can't.
"We are already seeing many Chinese businesses being listed for sale in the past few weeks, but there are not many takers."
On a Facebook food sharing page Lazy Susan, pictures and posts of empty Chinese restaurants are being shared.
"Due to the lack of Chinese tourists at this time, the Auckland yum cha scene is dead," one post said.
"My dad goes out with one of his oldest mates every day for yum char and has reported patronage is down at his regular spot, Hees Garden, [which] has actually closed for two weeks because of it. Dad has branched out to other locations but says they've all been really quiet too."
Cai wants Government to run a campaign to get locals to support Auckland Chinese restaurants.
"Many of the fear is unfounded, there is not a single case of coronavirus in New Zealand and we need the officials to tell people that it is safe to eat out."
A Restaurant Association survey found business to be down by as much as 60 per cent at Chinese restaurants here.
Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said the survey showed there had been some effect on businesses with restrictions on travel through China resulting in fewer visitors. "This has inevitably resulted in restaurant cancellations, particularly from some of the larger tour groups," Bidois said.
"We are hopeful that once the restriction has lifted, business will return to normal."
However she said it was a challenging time for hospitality business owners because many of them relied on revenues from the busy summer season to see them through winter.
"The more worrying feedback we are hearing from members is that diners are eating out less, particularly in Chinese restaurants," she said.
"This is extremely worrying for our restaurant community. We want to reassure the public that they should feel safe to continue to dine out in their favourite establishments.
"We enjoy a vibrant and diverse dining scene in New Zealand and we want to see that continue."
The association was offering extra marketing and mentoring support to affected businesses.
Coronavirus has infected at least 60,000 people and killed nearly 1400, mostly in China. The government has imposed a restriction on travellers from China and those who have travelled through China.