They’re just metres apart, but amid Australia’s coronavirus-driven recession, these restaurants are plating up very different financial futures.
The tale of this ultra-authentic Vietnamese eatery and a neighbouring chicken shop might also hold clues about slowing the Lucky Country’s economic slide.
In the Western Sydney suburb of Villawood, Quang Do’s north Vietnamese restaurant has been doing it tough since the pandemic struck.
His business, Quan Huong, used to draw a crowd, but fewer people travelling to the area to work has meant plummeting profits.
“This is a Muslim area so they [locals] are mainly after halal food but I’m just trying to recreate the north Vietnamese cuisine exactly,” he said.
Four doors down, it’s a different story.
Staff at the local chicken shop and cafe, Wishbone Poultry, have barely noticed a drop in trade.
“It’s exactly the same to be honest,” said employee Thai Buong.
“The people who are now working from home now are making up for the difference in those who are too afraid to come out.”
This week, data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed the national economy had contracted for a second straight quarter.
Australia’s GDP slumped 7 per cent in the June quarter, and that means, for the first time in almost 30 years, Australia is in a recession.
The financial tremors have shaken the country’s largest economy, NSW, worst.
Before the pandemic, NSW was responsible for about a third of Australia’s GDP, and economist Sarah Hunter, said it was important to consider the numbers in context.
“NSW does come out worse but that’s partly because NSW is the largest population and largest economy,” she said.
“The reason it was hit hardest alongside Victoria it was due to the tougher restrictions and number of cases.
“It’s made people in these states more cautious and concerned about moving around to interact.”
In Sydney, the economic impact that coronavirus has had depends on where you live.
The restaurants are in the Fairfield local government area, which has noticed less of a decline in foot traffic than the CBD as people from the suburbs shift to working from home.
There’s been a fall in people moving around across the board, but the Sydney CBD has struggled to recover the most with an exodus of office workers and international tourists.
Wishbone Poultry has been a Villawood staple for 10 years.
Elaine Hughes, 80, is a regular who has lived in the area for decades and before the pandemic, she used to visit other areas, but she’s staying local now.
“I used to go to Fairfield a lot and go out with my daughter but since coronavirus now, I just come and sit here four days a week,” she said.
“I’ve noticed more people hanging around more, I’m liking the new energy, I hope it stays.”
The 2016 census revealed more than a quarter of Villawood’s population were Muslim.
For Mr Do, not serving halal means his main customers are Vietnamese migrants from other areas seeking a taste of home.
“They used to come from everywhere, North Sydney, Kempsey, Burwood, Strathfield, Cabramatta,” he said.
While the owner of Wishbone Poultry and its employees are Vietnamese, their cuisine is all halal.
“I know everybody by name here,” said Mr Buong
“We make sure we adapt to the community, if they don’t eat pork we don’t sell it.”
Ms Hunter, the chief economist at BIS Oxford Economics, said the pandemic meant people were sticking to their local neighbourhoods.
“From a practical perspective, for businesses in this recession, some of them will not survive as the retail trade decreases,” she said.
“The high street will see shops not reopen.”
The NSW Government has approved a $326 million upgrade to Villawood Town Centre which Mr Do is hoping will bring increased foot traffic.
He is just hoping his business survives until the development is done.
“When JobSeeker ends, I don’t know how I’ll survive,” he said.