Local restaurant owners said false rumors hurt the entire restaurant industry.
A 35-word message written in Chinese and spreading like wildfire on WhatsApp is having a devastating impact on some restaurants in Richmond.
The post claims employees at five local restaurants have caught COVID-19 and “reminds” other customers to avoid those places when dining out.
“None of these claims are true,” said William Tse, director of the Richmond-based BC Asian Restaurant Café Owners Association.
“It is very irresponsible for people to spread rumors in times of uncertainty, especially since the local restaurant industry has already experienced serious difficulties over the past two years. We can no longer afford to drama,” Tse said.
In fact, Tse issued a statement on behalf of his association asking the public to avoid spreading such alarming false rumors.
Benny Ng, owner of Gingeri Chinese Cuisine at Lansdowne Centre, told the Richmond News that his cell phone is flooded with customers asking if any of his employees have COVID-19.
Until Ng’s employees alerted him to the WhatsApp message, he hadn’t even realized his restaurant was on the list.
“I feel furious and also helpless right now,” Ng said.
Although Ng said he immediately tried to clarify with customers that his restaurant was safe, the damage was done.
“Unfortunately, the irreversible damage was already there. Many people called us to cancel their reservations. Our business income dropped significantly within days,” Ng said.
What’s worse, he added, is that he hasn’t even had a chance to explain to many of these customers that the rumor is false.
A manager at the Sea Fortune restaurant on Granville Avenue said such rumors hurt the entire restaurant industry. And it comes at a particularly difficult time, given the approach of the Lunar New Year, which is for many Asian restaurants what Christmas is for local retailers.
“It’s very, very sad because people don’t want to dine out anymore after finding out about this fake news,” the official said.
Tse implores people to reflect on the posts they share on social media.
“Everything is a click away in the digital age – including rumors,” Tse said.
“Some people may lose their jobs or even their homes when you hit the share button.”