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Surviving the Shutdown: Brodard Restaurant keeps feeding Little Saigon

Surviving the Shutdown: Brodard Restaurant
Brodard, one of Orange County’s most famous Vietnamese restaurants, is still doing takeout orders since the coronavirus shut down many businesses. All employees at the Fountain Valley restaurant wear safety masks and gloves, and customers are required to wear a mask.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing shutdown have left many restaurants uncertain about their future. As they grapple with new realities, we asked some of them to share their stories.

During the before times, Orange County Vietnamese restaurant Brodard could sell 5,000 of its famous nem nuong spring rolls in a day.

No surprise, that impressive number is cut in half these days. Like many restaurants, bakeries and delis around Little Saigon, Brodard has seen a sharp decline in business during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chau Dang-Haller, co-owner and daughter of Brodard founder Diane Dang, said that revenue at the family’s three restaurants has decreased by 50% since dining rooms were forced to close over a month ago.

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Still, Brodard’s flagship location in Fountain Valley — which already saw about 40% of its sales come from takeout — is better equipped than most to handle the new realities of the restaurant business.

Customers keep socially distant while waiting in line while at Brodard Restaurant in Fountain Valley.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Customers now queue outside in clearly marked lanes, surrounded by signs reminding them to keep six feet apart and wear face masks. Fresh spring rolls, wrapped as tightly as fine cigars, are prepared assembly-line style in the large open kitchen and packaged neatly in plastic containers along with a signature peanut-laced dipping sauce.

“We’d noticed that takeout and delivery were becoming the new trend before this, so we had already started shifting our model,” Dang-Haller said. “Even though business is down overall, takeout orders have gone way up.”

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Things have been less rosy at Brodard Chateau, the more upscale, modern Vietnamese branch that Dang-Haller manages in Garden Grove. The large private parties that were a hallmark of the place are not allowed for now, and the restaurant isn’t well known for takeout.

Kitchen workers prepare fresh shrimp and pork rolls at Brodard Restaurant.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

To drum up business, Dang-Haller strung a colorful banner across the restaurant’s front porch and began advertising special deals: Buy two entrees and get a free order of fried rice or garlic noodles; 40% off all bottles of wine.

“If you don’t want to wait at the supermarket,” she said, “you can come here and get dinner and wine in one stop.”

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The restaurant has also been supplying local hospital workers with food deliveries.

Dang-Haller is concerned about what Little Saigon will look like once restaurants are allowed to reopen.

“If you’re already doing most of your business through takeout, maybe you can get by on that,” she said. “But for fine-dining places and banquet halls, it’s going to be more difficult to survive.”

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She’s hoping restaurants will be allowed to reopen sometime next month and is planning new practices at Brodard Chateau — spacing out tables, switching to paper menus, presenting silverware in pots of hot water like her mother used to at home. Anything, she said, that helps put diners at ease.

“I don’t think you lose some of the pleasure that comes from dining, but we’re going to try anything to adapt given the circumstances,” she said. “It’s challenging but doable.”

Brodard Restaurant, 16105 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, (657) 247-4401, brodardrestaurant.net

Brodard Chateau, 9100 Trask Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 899-8273, brodard.net/chateau

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Bamboo Bistro, 2600 East Coast Highway No. 160, Corona del Mar, (949) 720-1289, vietbamboobistro.com


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