Chi­nese steamed buns to go global

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI -

A steamed bun brand from Hangzhou is set to make its first step out of China by open­ing a restau­rant in the United States this May.

This restau­rant by GanQiShi Bao Bao, a Chi­nese brand well-known for its de­li­cious hand­made buns, or baozi, will be lo­cated in Har­vard Square in Bos­ton, an area that is sur­rounded by top univer­si­ties like Har­vard Univer­sity and Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

GanQiShi is also plan­ning to open 20 to 30 restau­rants in the New Eng­land re­gion within three to five years. The se­cond restau­rant will open in the state of Rhode Is­land in Au­gust.

“The US may have many Chi­nese restau­rants but it doesn’t ac­tu­ally have a tra­di­tional bun restau­rant. As one of China’s most iconic tra­di­tional hand­made foods, baozi should be ap­pre­ci­ated by the world and that’s also why I in­tend to bring our au­then­tic of­fer­ings to the US,” said Tong Qi­hua, the founder and chair­man of GanQiShi Bao Bao chain.

Founded in 2009 in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, GanQiShi sells a va­ri­ety of fist-sized buns that are filled with ei­ther shred­ded meat, veg­eta­bles or sweet paste. The com­pany now has close to 200 restau­rants in Hangzhou and Shang­hai, sell­ing at least 70 mil­lion buns ev­ery year and post­ing an­nual sales rev­enues of more than 200 mil­lion yuan ($30.7 mil­lion).

The ma­jor­ity of GanQiShi’s cus­tomers have grad­u­ally changed through the years, from el­derly peo­ple and mi­grant work­ers to the young white col­lar crowd and stu­dents. The com­pany has also mod­ern­ized its im­age, mov­ing sev­eral of its restau­rants to more cen­tral ar­eas and adopt­ing a sup­ply-chain man­age­ment model typ­i­cal of many fast ca­sual es­tab­lish­ments.

One of the most pop­u­lar branches is lo­cated in down­town Shang­hai on South Shanxi Road, an area close to shop­ping malls and Shang­hai Cul­tural Square. This par­tic­u­lar out­let has been de­signed to look like a cafe in­stead of tra­di­tional bun shop.

“The chef may be a crafts­man who creates ed­i­ble art­works for peo­ple but cus­tomers will also need to be in a com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment be­fore they can en­joy the hand­i­work,” said Tong of the de­ci­sion to adopt a more con­tem­po­rary ap­proach.

The restau­rant in Bos­ton will be no dif­fer­ent and it will of­fer cus­tomers a full-day menu com­pris­ing the brand’s fa­mous buns that will be made with the same in­gre­di­ents and pre­pared us­ing tra­di­tional bam­boo steam­ers.

The prices, how­ever, will be very dif­fer­ent — while the buns sell for be­tween 2 to 5 yuan in China, those in the US will sell for at least $3 a piece.

An­other dif­fer­ence is that the em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing the chefs, will mainly be Amer­i­can em­ploy­ees who will get to spend sev­eral months in Hangzhou learn­ing how to craft the buns by hand.

“The pres­ence of Amer­i­can chefs will help to con­vince the lo­cal con­sumers to ac­cept this tra­di­tional Chi­nese food more quickly,” said Gao Jun, a deputy man­ager at GanQiShi Bao Bao.

“We will also adapt cer­tain lo­cal fla­vors and in­gre­di­ent into the prod­ucts, such as chicken and lob­ster, which are more fa­vored by the lo­cal res­i­dents in Bos­ton,” added Gao.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

GanQiShi plans to open 20 to 30 of its restau­rants in the US within the next five years.

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