Food & Drinks

Hanging On: Four Restaurants, Two Years into the Pandemic

April 7An Choi reopens to sell takeout cocktails, which are allowed by the State Liquor Authority for the first time. A small menu of banh mi, fried rice, and salad rolls are also offered to comply with regulations that food items must be sold alongside alcohol. But there are few takers in a deserted Lower East Side — gross sales average less than $500 a day, compared to more than $3000 each night pre-pandemic.

Meanwhile, the team at Di An Di pivots to a fast-casual Viet-Cajun concept primed for takeout and delivery. Di Di, which means “To Go,” launches with a “secret menu” on Instagram alongside some of the traditional Di An Di offerings.

As restaurants cycle through various offerings and opening times to find a profitable sweet spot, Instagram becomes a lifeline and a de facto menu for countless spots. Catering to the inherently visual medium, the Di An Di team invests in fancy packaging. The restaurant had spent $5,000 on disposable paper and plastic goods during the entirety of 2019, when it was dine-in only. With Di Di, it regularly spends between $1,000 and $4,000 a week on packaging and accoutrements. “We aren’t a cheap place, so if the customer is paying a lot, then we want them to be wowed,” says head chef Dennis Ngo. “We want the packaging to reflect the Di An Di experience.”

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