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23 OCT 2009
Chinese restaurant
Address: 9a-10a, Shirley High St
Years on the street: Four
Number of staff: Five
Owner: Eamon Tang
Company service: 10 years

It's been a tough few months at the Little Buddha restaurant and there is little sign of things picking up in the near future.

Eamon's brother Richard is in charge on the day we visit. He says - like last year - they've had few big companies making Christmas party bookings.

"Some large companies would have usually booked already but until now there's still not much.

"I think the recession is still here and it's getting worse."

He says business is very quiet - even at weekends they are doing more business in takeaways than sit down meals.

"There are a couple of customers I haven't seen for a while and I think they have been made redundant."

Asked if his brother's been tempted to sell up, he says that if a buyer walked in offering the right money for the business, he'd sell straight away.

26 JAN 2009

We rang Eamon in January to see if his mood had changed: "You have to be optimistic but things are not looking so good. It's been a very quiet start to the year and the government are not doing enough."

7 NOV 2008

Eamon Tang's parents were both in the restaurant business.

"I didn't expect that when I started two-and-a-half years ago it would be so different, that there'd be a recession round the corner.

"I wouldn't have started if I'd known. Back then my parents didn't really need to do any advertising. They just opened up and waited for customers, but it's not like that now."

Eamon insists he is trying to be optimistic, but it's difficult. Christmas bookings have not started to come in yet and without those, it could be difficult to make ends meet.

"Customer numbers are steady at the moment, but they're not getting any better. I don't know if the interest rate cut will help because even customers I know are very wealthy are not spending as much.

Eamon Tang, restaurant manager
Eamon Tang is trying new things to entice custom

"They used to drink a lot of wine and beers and now you can actually see that they are thinking about things. They are on a budget at the moment. Even the multi-millionaires are worried about the future, because there's so much around about how bad it could get."

Eamon is trying to tap into the take-away market more, in the hope that if people can save some money, say on drinks, by staying at home, they might still order from his restaurant.

"We are trying to promote our buffet in the evenings, but we're also getting more people to deliver menus next week. I hope that will get more orders."

While the government has made noises about helping small businesses, Eamon isn't holding his breath. "I don't think they're willing to do it."

9 OCT 2008

Eamon Tang, 26, has run the Little Buddha restaurant for two-and-a-half years and finds it very tough.

The government should give us a hand - they should cut VAT down to 10%

"Things are slowing down a lot. People are spending much, much less. A year ago we were maybe making 20% more.

"My bills have gone up too. Cooking oil has gone up 30 or 40% over the last year. We deliver as well and so there's the price of petrol too. And my rent has just gone up.

"I can't afford to, but I think I might have to bring prices down to get more people in. We're already doing a special buffet in the evening to try to get more people."

He believes the government must step in to help.

"We have to be optimistic, but also realistic. It's not going to get any better, at least for a while, and the government is not doing anything. They should give us a hand. They should cut VAT down to 10%.

"It's a real struggle. We do get busier over Christmas, but this year I don't think it's going to be enough."

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