Health inspector ratings of Asian restaurants during the early COVID-19 pandemic

Hua Yu Sebastian Cherng, Martha Moreno, Jia Lin Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the restaurant industry, with Asian restaurants having perhaps suffered the most, as many reported business losses well before shelter-in-place orders were announced. Media outlets argue that this decline in business reflects biases that are linked to the China- and food-related origin of COVID-19. However, discrimination against Asian Americans and their cuisine is not new, as it is rooted in a long and history of assimilation and racism. Overlooked in this body of literature, as well as in conversations on the impacts of COVID-19 on Asian restaurants, is the role of how government institutions shape these biases against a cuisine that has hundreds of years of history in the US yet remains distinctly ‘foreign’. In this study, we use 3-years of New York City restaurant health inspection data to examine trends in citation scores before and after the onset of the news of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using a synthetic control approach, we find that Asian restaurants uniquely received more citations after news of the pandemic became pervasive in the US. We end by discussing the implications of this finding for the history of Asian cuisine in the US, theoretical frameworks to understand assimilation, and the restaurant industry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Asian American
  • immigration
  • inequality
  • racism
  • restaurant ratings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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