Since he first opened in 2013 as Spicy Ginger Cafe, Richard Hou has seen many people pass through his doors.
Situated on Childers Street in the Australian National University campus, many of these people have at one point been students. He's seen people grow from being two first-years going on their initial dates at the restaurant, to a married couple bringing in their young family for dinner.
But now, the restaurant is taking on a new chapter - and the new name, 1980 Chinese Restaurant - in a move that was prompted by the effects Covid had on the eatery and the hospitality industry as a whole.
This time last year, Childers Street was a ghost town. Not only was everyone in lockdown, meaning university staff and surrounding office workers were all at home, but the steady stream of international students that was the restaurant's bread and butter, dried up and Hou says it hasn't returned to the level it once was.
"We've relied too much on university students, including overseas students and the uni staff," Hou says.
"We used to cater a lot of seminars, conferences, parties, those kinds of university functions. But since Covid, we lost all of them. I realised we can't rely on that and I have to find another new market."
Inspired by the young families that were once just a couple of uni students heading out for a feed, Hou has set his sights on bringing in more families to the restaurants.
Not only does the restaurant have a new name - inspired by the year Hou was born as "it's just an easy number to remember" - the restaurant has had a revamp to both the building and menu.
The physical revamp has seen renovations to the back courtyard and the addition of a private room. With the inclusion of a mah-jong table - "possibly the only one in Canberra" - a smart TV, a sofa and a custom-built table that can fit up to 18, the room is designed to bring a homey feel to guest's experience.
It's an interesting decision to embark on a major renovation in a time where you have little customers coming in. But according to Hou, it was as much about changing the restaurant's overall game plan as it was about boosting morale.
"It lets me and my team members believe all the bad things will go and everything is going to be back to normal, maybe shortly," he says.
"This idea happened at almost the end of the last year because that time was really sad. But we still have to be strong-minded, to hang in there. Because I know my team and my family, we all need to be fed from this restaurant. So basically, I wanted to invest the money to motivate myself and my team members, and to kind of give them hope."
Of course, no restaurant revamp would be complete without a new menu.
While 1980 Chinese Restaurant has kept some fan favourites on the menu, such as its cumin lamb and dry chilli chicken, the rest of the menu is made up, for the most part, of authentic cuisine from different Chinese regions.
"I still stuck to some dishes such as black pepper beef or Mongolian lamb, just in case, for the new customers who have completely no idea or they don't want to try something different," Hou says.
"At least they can find one thing for them that is safe, familiar. But the new dishes are all the authentic ones."
The braised abalone served with rice, for example, is the dish that Hou says people have while out having drinks with friends. Other dishes include the pippies salad with mustard dressing and shredded pork with Peking sauce.
"And our fresh made dumplings are all very good and made with the love and heart," he says.
"The pastry chef has been with me almost seven years, and my two chefs with me more than seven years, almost eight years. So they're working with the heart with a lot of responsibilities."
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