Pandemic anniversary: Naperville restaurant manager says her older waiters don’t want to return to work yet because they afraid of COVID

Naperville Sun

Mar 12, 2021 6:09 PM

Nancy Lau and her husband, Chris, work at House of Emperor in Naperville. The Naperville restaurant was only recently able to reopen its dining room, and manager Nancy Lau says she thinks they’ve weathered the worst of the pandemic. (Rafael Guerrero / Naperville Sun)

Nancy Lau says she is fortunate the Naperville restaurant she manages, House of Emperor, has weathered the pandemic.

Only recently has she been able to reopen the dining room to customers after being closed for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the (restaurants) who got hurt the most were probably in Chinatown, more of a tourist destination,” said Lau, whose business is located at 1212 S. Naper Blvd. “In regular times, you go to Chinatown to eat. But when you’re scared, you won’t. We’re in the suburbs, we didn’t get hurt as much as Chinatown.”

Being able to deliver was a boon, especially with so many college students home from school and able to work, she said.

House of Emperor has been in Naperville since the early 1990s, and Lau’s husband, Chris, also works there. But

Many of the old waiters who worked for House of Emperor, a Naperville fixture since the early 1990s, have opted not come back yet, and she hasn’t seen most of them in person since March 2020, she said.

“They’re still worried. When you wait on a table, you’re very close to people,” Lau said. “I miss them; I want them to come back. I talked to them, and they said they are thinking of returning this summer — we’ll see.”

In the meantime, they’re making due with a younger staff for now.

“We have a lot of college graduates and they can’t find jobs, so they work here for now,” Lau said.

“I needed help, and they needed a job. It’s perfect,” she said. “But you always have to worry. If they find a job, they are going to leave right away. If you have a full timer, you don’t have to worry about that.”

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