Hunan Chinese Restaurant in Fresno has closed its doors for good after no buyers emerged to rescue it.
The highly rated restaurant at Herndon and Cedar avenues, in operation for more than 30 years, had warned of its demise at the beginning of the month. A sign in the window told customers that unless it found a buyer for $180,000 before the end of October, it would close.
On Sunday, the staff served its last dinner and then closed the business permanently.
“No one is willing to take the risk,” manager Isaac Huang said in an email to The Bee.
The restaurant was struggling with growing inflation, especially in food costs.
The cost of the white meat chicken went up 77% since before the pandemic in 2019, and a bottle of cooking oil went from $19 to $40, Huang told The Bee in an exclusive interview earlier this month.
That coupled with fewer customers and diners buying less was insurmountable.
“We are not actually making money,” he said in early October.
Restaurant challenges: Inflation, less dining out
Hunan is facing the same challenges as restaurants nationwide.
The cost of food away from home, which includes meals at restaurants, rose 6% between March and September of 2023, according to the Consumer Price Index. That’s more than double the increase in the price of eating at home.
People are also dining out less. About 3% fewer people dined out during the week ending Oct. 28 compared to the same week the previous year, according to data tracked by Open Table, a reservation and technology website.
Huang said he was open about the restaurant’s struggles because he wanted the 20 employees to find other jobs and customers to use their gift cards.
He didn’t want anyone to be caught by surprise like Bitwise employees were this past spring when the downtown-Fresno tech and real estate business went bankrupt seemingly overnight and its employees were furloughed and laid off.
“We don’t want to see that situation,” he said.
Hunan specialized in Szechwan cooking, and served both traditional and Americanized cuisine.
It was around for decades, but made a name for itself when chef Zhongyi Liu bought it years ago. The chef with global accolades drew fans who followed him from the restaurant he worked at in the Bay Area.
He later sold the restaurant to Jennifer and Estella Pan, and new chefs were hired.
Hunan is not the only local restaurant to close in recent weeks, with other closures including Foster’s Freeze, Baskin-Robbins, Genesis Bistro and Yosemite Deli.