A cross-Straits recipe for suc­cess

Bank­ing on what its brand is most fa­mous for, Wang Bao He ef­fec­tively ex­panded its reach across the sea to neigh­bor­ing Tai­wan

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By WANG YING in Shang­hai

wang_y­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Most peo­ple his age would have con­tin­ued with their jobs all the way to re­tire­ment but Zhang Gu­osheng de­cided that it was never too old to seek new chal­lenges in life.

Hav­ing worked for Sta­te­owned com­pa­nies for 30 years, Zhang left his com­fort zone and made the foray into the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try on March 5, 2014, tak­ing up the role of gen­eral man­ager at Shang­hai Wang Bao He Co Ltd, a com­pany that man­ages two star ho­tels and two restau­rants in Shang­hai and Bei­jing. Fur­ther­more, Zhang had en­tered the in­dus­try at a time when do­mes­tic ho­tels were fac­ing a busi­ness slump amid slower eco­nomic growth.

“This is a to­tally dif­fer­ent area for me and it presents a great chal­lenge for some­one my age who has been ac­cus­tomed to the sys­tem and work­flow of State-owned com­pa­nies,” said the 52-year-old.

Ac­cord­ing to data from the China Na­tional Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the av­er­age daily rate (ADR) of five-star ho­tels was 629 yuan ($95.6) in the third quar­ter of 2015, down 2.2 per­cent year-onyear, with the oc­cu­pancy rate stay­ing at low lev­els of 59.8 per­cent. For four-star ho­tels, the fig­ures were rather dis­mal too.

In or­der to ex­pand Wang Bao He’s busi­ness, which was al­ready well-known lo­cally, Zhang and his team de­cided to fo­cus on what the brand is fa­mous for — its crabs and The year Wang Guichen opened

the first Wang Bao He tav­ern

rice wine. The com­pany’s roots can be traced all the way back to 1744 when the first Wang Bao He tav­ern was opened by Wang Guichen. The brand has since its in­cep­tion been famed for be­ing a “rice wine ex­pert” and “crab mas­ter”.

Re­al­iz­ing that peo­ple across the East China Sea in Tai­wan were not par­tic­u­larly aware of the brand, Zhang de­cided to make them the pri­mary tar­get au­di­ence. The first step was taken in May 2015 when del­e­gates from Cen­tral Ho­tel Shang­hai, a four-star es­tab­lish­ment af­fil­i­ated to Wang Bao He, paid a visit to the Grand Ho­tel Taipei and pro­posed a col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Fol­low­ing months of con­stant email com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Zhang took his team and their fa­mous hairy crab dishes to the Grand Ho­tel Taipei in Oc­to­ber, and it in­stantly won over the lo­cal gour­mands.

Dur­ing a week-long pro­mo­tional event in Tai­wan, Zhang man­aged to gen­er­ate about 130,000 yuan worth of sales rev­enue from the sale of th­ese fa­mous dishes. The crab feast also at­tracted big names, in­clud­ing Mor­ris Chang, chair­man of Tai­wan Semi­con­duc­tor Man­u­fac­tur­ing Co Ltd, the world’s first ded­i­cated semi­con­duc­tor foundry.

“The feast turned out to be such a suc­cess that the din­ing area was full ev­ery day. More than 100 guests had made reser­va­tions be­fore the event started,” said John­son Chi­ang, pres­i­dent of Grand Ho­tel, Taipei.

Hav­ing no­ticed Grand Ho­tel Taipei’s in­ter­est in mak­ing dim sum us­ing the highly pop­u­lar hairy crabs, Zhang got his chefs to teach their coun­ter­parts how to make mini steamed buns stuffed with crab roe and pork, mini dumplings with crab meat and pork, as well as crab shell cakes. In re­turn, Taipei’s chefs taught their coun­ter­parts from the main­land how to cre­ate au­then­tic Tai­wan dishes.

“Thanks to Wang Bao He’s chefs, our mini pork buns with crab roe have be­come the must-or­der item in our ho­tel,” said Chi­ang.

The suc­cess­ful event has since spurred the two ho­tels to work to­gether more of­ten. On Jan 20 this year, the two reached a col­lab­o­ra­tion agree­ment which states that such culi­nary ex­changes will be held ev­ery March and Oc­to­ber, start­ing this year.

Tai­wan-style dishes from the Grand Ho­tel Taipei, in­clud­ing Madame Chi­ang Kai-shek’s fa­vored red bean muf­fin, will be avail­able at the Cen­tral Ho­tel Shang­hai for five days start­ing Mar 23, 2016. There are about 300,000 Tai­wan peo­ple who are liv­ing and work­ing in Shang­hai and Zhang said that this will help to cre­ate a cus­tomer base for Tai­wan-style dishes in the city.

“Fine food is the best way to pro­mote cross-Straits com­mu­ni­ca­tion. We hope that this part­ner­ship will be long-last­ing,” said Chi­ang.

He Jian­min, a pro­fes­sor spe­cial­iz­ing in tourism man­age­ment at Shang­hai Univer­sity of Fi­nance and Eco­nom­ics, said that such a way of tourism mar­ket­ing should be en­cour­aged among ho­tels, see­ing how many peo­ple travel be­tween the Chi­nese main­land and Tai­wan. He said that the two es­tab­lish­ments should also look into shar­ing their cus­tomers and man­age­ment re­sources in the fu­ture.

About 4.15 mil­lion trips were made to Tai­wan by tourists from the Chi­nese main­land in 2015, and Chi­nese trav­el­ers were pro­jected to have gen­er­ated about 230 bil­lion New Tai­wan dol­lars ($6.9 bil­lion) worth in sales for the is­land last year, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from www.tai­wan.cn, which is af­fil­i­ated to the Tai­wan Affairs Of­fice of the State Coun­cil of China.

Apart from co­op­er­at­ing with Grand Ho­tel Taipei, the Cen­tral Ho­tel Shang­hai is also look­ing to es­tab­lish sim­i­lar col­lab­o­ra­tions with ho­tels in Hong Kong and Tokyo, said Zhang.

The two ho­tels un­der Wang Bao He are cur­rently un­der­go­ing changes and the goal is to find a bet­ter bal­ance in ADR and oc­cu­pancy rates so that the ho­tels can have an 8 per­cent growth in rev­enue this year. Zhang is con­fi­dent that this can be achieved, thanks to the com­pany’s new rev­enue man­age­ment soft­ware and the large amount of tourists ex­pected to turn up to visit the up­com­ing Shang­hai Dis­ney Re­sort.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

Zhang Gu­osheng, gen­eral man­ager of Shang­hai Wang Bao He, be­lieves that good food is one of the keys to pro­mot­ing cross-Straits com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

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