No Successors? For Chinese Restaurant Owners, That's a Success


KINGSTON, N.Y. — More than 40 years after buying Eng’s, a Chinese American restaurant in the Hudson Valley, Tom Sit is reluctantly considering retirement.

纽约金斯顿—在买下哈德逊谷餐厅Eng 's 40多年后,美籍华人餐厅老板汤姆·西特终于不情愿地考虑退休了。

For much of his life, Sit has worked here seven days a week, 12 hours a day. He cooks in the same kitchen where he worked as a young immigrant from China. He parks in the same lot where he’d take breaks and read his wife’s letters, sent from Montreal while they courted by post in the late 1970s. He seats his regulars at the same tables where his three daughters did homework.


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Two years ago, at the insistence of his wife, Faye Lee Sit, he started taking off one day a week. Still, it’s not sustainable. He’s 76, and they’re going to be grandparents soon. Working 80 hours a week is just too hard. But his grown daughters, who have college degrees and well-paying jobs, don’t intend to take over.


Across the country, owners of Chinese American restaurants like Eng’s are ready to retire but have no one to pass the business to. Their children, educated and raised in America, are pursuing professional careers that do not demand the same grueling labor as food service.

在美国各地,像Eng 's这样的美籍华人餐馆的老板都准备退休了,但找不到人接手。他们的孩子在美国接受教育、成长,他们对餐饮服务行业这样辛苦的行业并不感兴趣。

According to new data from the restaurant reviewing website Yelp, the share of Chinese restaurants in the top 20 metropolitan areas has been consistently falling. Five years ago, an average of 7.3% of all restaurants in these areas were Chinese, compared with 6.5% today. That reflects 1,200 fewer Chinese restaurants at a time when these 20 places added more than 15,000 restaurants overall.


Even in San Francisco, home to the oldest Chinatown in the United States, the share of Chinese restaurants shrank to 8.8% from 10%.


It doesn’t seem that interest in the cuisine has faltered. On Yelp, the average share of page views of Chinese restaurants hasn’t declined, nor has the average rating.


And at the same time, the percentages of Indian, Korean and Vietnamese restaurants — many of which were also owned and operated by immigrants from Asian countries — are holding steady or increasing nationwide.


The restaurant business has always been tough, and rising rents and delivery apps haven’t helped. Tightening regulations on immigration and accounting have also made it harder for cash-based restaurants to do business.


But those are not Chinese-restaurant-specific factors, and do not explain the wave of closings. Instead, a big reason seems to be the economic mobility of the second generation.


“It’s a success that these restaurants are closing,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, a former New York Times journalist who wrote of the rise of Chinese restaurants in her book “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles” and produced a documentary, “The Search for General Tso.” “These people came to cook so their children wouldn’t have to, and now their children don’t have to.”


“In some ways, the children are regaining the status of the first generation that they have lost while migrating,” said Jennifer Lee, a professor of sociology at Columbia University and co-author of “The Asian American Achievement Paradox.” (She is not related to Jennifer 8. Lee.) “The goal has never been to continue those businesses.”


When they do become entrepreneurs, these children tend to work in industries like tech or consulting, rather than in food service or nail salons.


In the past decade, some members of the second generation have also chosen to take charge of family restaurants. Nom Wah Tea Parlor, a New York dim sum restaurant that opened in 1920, has stayed a family business: first run by the Choy family, then the Tangs.


The owner, Wilson Tang, 41, left a career in finance to succeed his uncle in 2011. Initially, his parents balked at his move.


“As immigrants, it’s the only thing you can do; if it’s not restaurants, it’s a laundromat,” Tang said. “For me to choose to go back to owning a restaurant? That was tough for them to accept.”


Since then, Nom Wah has expanded: to another Manhattan location, to Philadelphia and to Shenzhen, China. On any given night, groups of guests wait for a table outside the Chinatown location for up to an hour, huddled in the bend of Doyers Street.


In a parallel effort, the team behind Junzi Kitchen, a fast-casual Chinese restaurant chain based in New York, recently raised $5 million to research and buy places like Eng’s, rebranding them with Junzi’s modern take on the cuisine.

与此同时,总部位于纽约的休闲快餐连锁店“君子厨房”的团队最近筹集了500万美元,用于研究和购买像Eng 's这样的餐厅,并将它们重新打上“君子厨房”的现代品牌。


译文来源:三泰虎   http://www.santaihu.com/49077.html        译者:Joyceliu



Arrived in US as a 18 year old, I worked 44 hours a week and 363 days a year at a Chinese restaurant while going to high school. As a 19 year old, I ran the restaurant for the summer when the owner and his family went to China. Those were the good old days.




same thing happened in the midwest with Italian restaurants- the 1st 2 generations worked very hard - then in the 70s 80s the 3rd generation went to college and left the family businesses behind as not economically sufficient.



Fed Up

At least the children have the freedom to pursue careers that they will find fulfilling.

I hope owners can devise a way for their great cooking to be preserved and then make a fortune when they sell.





Sit is he won't know what to do with himself. It's not like he had free time to pick up other interests while working 12hr/7day and raising a family as a side activity. His kids are busy, his in-laws and the grand kids cannot relate. There's generational, linguistic, and cultural gaps with relatives.




Chinese Americans have been a great asset to this country. I envy their culture.




interesting how many racists chose to make comments.

Me, I am just sad that Authentic Immigrant Owned Chinese Restaurants are in decline.

I hope market dynamics somehow reverse this trend. I prefer family owned Chinese Restaurants to chain food.






Chinese built the railroad that connect the American West to the East.




I like the small family run places where the food is cooked in front of you and you can see their kid doing homework while they cook. The chain style buffet places have Asian people out front with Hispanics in the kitchen. Nothing wrong with hard work. Respect.



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