If there’s one word we could use to describe Sumiao as a restaurant, a person, and a brand, it’s resilient. The impact that many restaurants have faced due to COVID-19 has been huge. From early shutdowns and financial struggles to unfair criticism and simply facing the unknown, most of the hospitality industry hasn’t had it easy. But instead of letting these setbacks discourage the team behind Sumiao Hunan Kitchen, they’ve looked onward and upward, joining hands with others in the community whenever possible. It is because of the incredibly strong and positive mindset that this restaurant maintains not just an open establishment, but one that moves forward with grace, compassion, and loyalty.
Early on, when COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China, SHK used both their creativity and generosity to help out their home country. Back in February, Sumiao ran a donation program selling their Wuhan Hot Dry Noodles and their Beef & Egg Rice Noodles to raise money for the Tongji Medical College Overseas Alumni Association, a fund for helping Wuhan’s local clinicians and frontline health workers. SHK was pleased to send a donation totaling $18,923 on March 15. This represented 2,039 dishes from our customers in the Boston area. Later once COVID-19 caused shutdowns in the US, local clinicians from Wuhan also shipped several big batches of face masks from China oversea to support SHK.
But around this time, COVID-19 was making its appearance in the United States. On March 16th, Governor Baker shut down the entire restaurant industry, leaving Sumiao to stay open for take out and delivery only. Unlike some of the restaurants facing this crisis, SHK was already in planning mode. The team spent a lot of time establishing new guidelines and processes to keep their staff and restaurant patrons safe. It was of utmost importance to Sumiao that her loyal employees worked in a safe environment that would be able to produce the same quality product to each and every customer.
Because of this early preparation paired with a tight knit team and an incredible leader, SHK knew they could make it work. SHK was able to transition to the new business model without any interruption in service. The early adoption of a new structure allowed them to focus next on what they could do to continue to help others. One of our neighborhood pharmaceutical companies initiated a donation to the Boston Medical Center. Sumiao decided to join in and donated 100 boxed lunches to show their appreciation to frontline workers.
A second example came in the form of a local collaboration. Restaurant founder Sumiao Chen just so happens to be one of the founders of the Massachusetts Asian Restaurant Association. One of the other members who owns a bakery shop in Natick, a mother of two, asked for help in selling her delicious desserts. Sumiao knew that helping her out would be a wonderful collaboration, and has since added her bakery sweets to their menu. This sweet collaboration is still ongoing, but the spirit of helping each other is even sweeter in that it brought the community together.
As time went on, the restaurant was able to get in a nice flow, supported by an amazing management team and staff. Things were looking up, the rates of COVID-10 were slowing, and everyone felt closer to better days ahead. But one morning in early June, the staff arrived at the restaurant to find that it had been badly vandalized, splattered with red paint all over the front doors, windows, and sidewalk. While none of the team members were injured, emotionally, it did hurt. In a time like this while we are all suffering in different ways, how could someone do this? But instead of wallowing in grief, the team held their heads high as the paint was scrubbed for hours. Nothing was going to stop their positivity, strength, and resilience. And in an effort to proclaim that resilience, the team posted pictures of the damage on social media. The community responded with utmost care and compassion, reiterating the fact that Sumiao’s place in the community is stronger than ever, thanks to the wonderful people we’re connected with, both new and old.
Sumiao Hunan Kitchen stands with confidence, compassion, grace, and resilience. But at the end of the day, it is because of our incredible community, our friends, and our family that we come back even stronger.