Can creativity save restaurants from Covid-19?

Hospitality has been hit hard by the pandemic, but in the midst of increased restrictions restaurateurs are finding creative ways to reach hungry punters at home. Here, we delve into how restaurant brands are adapting to the new normal

It’s been an extremely tough few months for the UK’s restaurant scene. Thanks in part to the government’s confusing rules regarding the pandemic – flip-flopping between the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and more draconian measures such as its much maligned 10pm curfew – restaurant owners haven’t known if they are coming or going. In light of the recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, which suggest that hospitality has been the ‘worst hit’ industry in the UK, it’s unsurprising that many of them have started taking matters into their own hands.

One such business is London-based restaurant Bao, which has been bringing its deliciously unique brand experience into people’s homes in multiple ways during the pandemic. Alongside its now iconic Taiwanese steamed buns, design and creativity has always been part of Bao’s DNA. Founded in 2013 by husband and wife team Shing Tat Chung and Erchen Chang, who met while studying at the Slade School of Fine Art, and Shing’s sister Wai Ting, the brand has grown from a street food stall in Hackney’s Netil Market to encompass three restaurants across London and spin-off Chinatown restaurant Xu.

Bao’s lonely man logo

“Our creative backgrounds mean we are all fully involved in all aspects of the branding and aesthetics – from the graphic design, web design, interior design, artistic direction and food design – in all our restaurants,” says Chung. “The Bao logo was an evolution of one of Erchen’s artworks, Rules to be a Lonely Man, inspired by the classic salaryman, Japanese B Movies and oversized suits. Our branding and environments are built around the ethos of the Bao man.”

When the full force of the pandemic reached the UK in March, all of Bao’s existing restaurants were forced to close, while plans were temporarily put on hold for its new King’s Cross eatery, Café Bao. With no existing capacity to do deliveries, the co-founders had to think on their feet just to stay afloat. Within three weeks, they had launched their own delivery and click and collect service, Rice Error.