Like so many restaurants that have closed during the pandemic, the operators of Xi’an Famous Foods—the beloved, Anthony Bourdain-approved noodle chain—are evaluating their business and seeing where they can trim the fat in order to survive this uniquely challenging time for hospitality.
On March 14th, just ahead of the citywide mandated restaurant shutdown for full-service dining out, the team decided to close all fourteen of their Chinese noodle and dumpling shop locations, reportedly laying off nearly 200 employees in the process, choosing to forgo a pivot to a takeout-only model. Wang cited safety concerns for both employees and customers alike.
So far, the fast casual chain has sadly closed up shop in Greenpoint at 648 Manhattan Avenue, as of last month. But CEO Jason Wang told Eater NY that he believed the West Village location at Sixth Avenue and West 3rd Street will likely soon follow.
Wang confirmed the likelihood of additional closures to Time Out New York via email, though would not specify the possible spots this would affect.
The good news is that Wang tells us that as of this Friday, he plans to reopen locations in Flushing (the original restaurant) and the Upper East Side. To date, the team is also scheduled to reopen that aforementioned West Village location next week, alongside an outpost in Downtown Brooklyn. Their central kitchen in Woodside, Queens (where the team produces and ships Xi'an products such as chili oil and their meal kits) has reopened alongside its attached store location.
For the first time since opening in 2005, the team is offering pre-order pick-up dishes online to “limit contact,” and will not be accepting any cash on premises. In accordance with all social distancing guidelines, all customers must wear masks. And, in the interim, the team will be changing store hours and possibly limiting days of operation, and will be updating their website with additional information on that soon.
Though Wang would not share details about which locations of Xi’an Famous Foods were the most or least profitable prior to the pandemic, he did share that “our biggest and busiest locations were our midtown locations, and those are also the most expensive in terms of rent.” Though least profitable prior to the current crisis doesn’t necessarily equate to most vulnerable right now, one of their Midtown locations is positioned directly opposite to MoMA. With so many tourists not traveling to New York City right now and museums as a whole still slowly figuring out reopening plans, one might wonder whether that could affect future success there. In the meantime, we are happy to hear that at least some neighborhoods can enjoy their spicy cumin lamb noodles very soon.
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