Hema hires temp workers from restaurant chains amid epidemic

February 06, 2020 10:14
With several restaurants suspending operations amid the coronavirus outbreak, Alibaba’s Hema supermarkets have seen surging demand for delivery service. Photo: qq

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba said its Hema grocery store unit has reached agreement with several dozen restaurant chains to temporarily hire their employees. It’s reported that Hema is hiring nearly 2,000 employees from more than 30 restaurant chains including Mystic South Yunnan Ethnic Cuisine and Youth Restaurant, Xibei Restaurant, South Memory, and Shudaxia Hotpot.

These employees will work in Hema stores in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Nanjing and other Chinese cities. The first batch comprising more than 500 workers have already reported to Hema. They will be assigned to shopkeeping, sorting and delivery positions after body check-up and brief training.

Many Chinese have been stuck at home due to the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, numerous restaurant chains including Haidilao and Jiumaojiu have suspended operation. But restaurant chain operators are forced to keep paying their employees, as laying off staff is politically wrong at this critical moment.

Meanwhile, Hema grocery store has benefited from surging demand for delivery. It now has over 200 stores across the nation. And Hema has pledged to keep its stores open with no price increase during the outbreak. However, the firm was struggling with staff shortage to meet soaring demand.

The agreement with restaurant chains to hire their workers as temporary help will enable Hema tackle the labor shortage, while also allowing the restaurant chain operators to save labor costs during the period. It’s a win-win solution for both employees and customers.

Hema’s deal with restaurant chains shows how creative and flexible Chinese entrepreneurs are. In the meantime, Beijing may also learn a lesson and come up with some new initiatives to mitigate the crisis.

Given the possibilities, we can say China’s economic prospects would remain promising despite the current troubles.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 5

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist