KATY, Texas – Perched at the bar, Chef Alex Au-Yeung worked on his menu. Any other Tuesday afternoon, he’d be busy helping kitchen staff. The coronavirus changed that. Instead, Chef’s view of empty seats and bare tables tells the story of where things stand.
“I would say we lost over half of the business that we were doing,” Au-Yeung said.
Ah-Yeung owns Phat Eatery in Katy’s Asian Town shopping area. To-go orders and deliveries drive business these days, yet another example of Houston’s food scene in the age of the coronavirus.
“On Saturday and Sunday, even Friday nights there’s always a line. There’s no more dining. There’s no more line,” Au-Yeung remarked.
Au-Yeung said he knows he’s far from alone.
That’s why he says he’s doing his part to help his peers.
“I’m not an expert on this but whatever I can do, whatever I can help, I’ll just do it,” he said.
Chef Au-Yeung decided to help other small business owners in the restaurant industry by either selling or promoting their products in his restaurant.
He sells frozen dumplings from Dumpling Haus, near downtown Houston. Proceeds don’t benefit Chef Au-Yeung and all the money goes back to business Au-Yeung has helped.
“I just said bring me the dumplings. We’ll sell here,” Au-Yeung said, recalling a conversation he had with the mother-daughter duo who own Dumpling Haus.
Along with selling a restaurant’s product, Chef Au-Yeung also ran a special promotion to pitch another business’ hot sauce.
iBurn is a specialty food store in the Bellaire area. Rather than sell bottles of hot sauce, Au-Yeung decided to buy 100 bottles and hand them out as part of a promotion at Phat Eatery.
Au-Yeung recalled the conversation he had with James Beck, Jr, iBurn’s owner.
"I said, ‘I’ll just buy 100 bottles from you.’ He said, ‘They can get the funding right away. You don’t have to wait,’” Au-Yeung continued.
Beck said it was a smart promotion that made a difference.
“Depends on the day of the week, how it’s going,” Beck said, describing business since the stay at home order was issued. “He thought it would be an awesome cross promotional idea to be able to offer a free bottle of hot sauce with every purchase of their curry crawfish."
The two met via Houston Food Finder, a local website that follows Houston’s food scene. In the age of the Coronavirus, the website also has connected area small business owners in the culinary world, helping them to help one another.
Helping was the least Au-Yeung said he could do.
“Just do whatever you can. I just do whatever I can. Whenever I can help do it for the community. Now it’s time to give back,” he said.
Au-Yeung’s giving spirit came as no surprise to James Beck Jr.
“That’s a Houston thing. We’ve seen it over and over again. Houston Strong, Hurricanes. Tropical storms. The people of this community are amazing. They’re supportive and they do whatever they can to support each other,” Beck Jr. said.