Office return-to-work plans could make or break some restaurants’ business

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Employers across the country are crafting plans to bring workers back to the office as Covid-19 vaccination rates rise and pandemic restrictions ease.

Those decisions could have an outsize impact on restaurant sales for businesses located near city centers and office buildings, according to celebrity chef Ming Tsai.

“We don’t know the new normal,” Tsai said at CNBC’s Small Business Playbook conference. “Are half the people going to come back to work and the other half are going to stay at home, or is it two-thirds? Whatever it is, it greatly affects restaurants that rely on the lunch business, because right now there’s none. … It relies on happy hour and, of course, on dinner.”

Tsai is the host and executive producer of the TV cooking show “Simply Ming” and owns the Boston restaurant Blue Dragon.

When lockdowns started, Tsai teamed up with Chef Ed Lee, more than a dozen other restaurants and Kentucky distiller Maker’s Mark to use Blue Dragon’s staff more...