Time-honored business recipe flavors restaurant success
After visiting a friend’s family during the National Day holiday, my wife and I happily found that our old favorite restaurant near the Tayuan community in northwestern Beijing, where we lived some 20 years ago, is still there. We went in for the good memories.
Surprisingly, little has changed in the eatery that specializes in dumplings: the way tables are set, the interior decorations, the manner that the attendants greet and serve the customers, and most importantly, the quality of the dumplings and dishes. Still, all tables were fully occupied at dinnertime on the day.
While eating in the dumpling restaurant, a question came tomy mind: how could the home-styled restaurant survive the fierce market competition, without having to change much, in the past 20-plus years?
I noticed a sharply different scenario for most small restaurants in fast-changing Beijing. Near the neighborhood where I live now in northeastern Beijing, I very often see one restaurant open for several months and then close down, but a fewweeks later, another one under a newname opens. Why can’t these eateries last in the capital city where chi le ma (have you eaten) is an everyday greeting for some residents?
The dumpling restaurant has banked on its branding and quality, not fancy decorations or exotic and high-priced dishes, for its lasting success. I also credit its success to its right choice of customer base— ordinary diners.
This restaurant, with its homestyled dishes at reasonable prices, caters straight to the needs of the majority of consumers, which means an inexhaustible source of customers and revenue. People like me favor this eatery, because it is affordable and decently comfortable. We had two plates of dumplings and two hot dishes, costing less than 100 yuan ($15) in total.
This helps explain how the restaurant resisted the temptation to be trendy and continued to follow its recipe for success— staying close to the majority of the consumers. Trends change fast and very often don’t last.
After all, what most restaurantgoers really want is simply tasty food and an amicable dining environment.
That is the business logic behind the survival and lasting prosperity of the dumpling eatery.
In the past few years, we’ve read or heard many reports about the difficulties that some luxury and high-end restaurants encountered. Apart from policy factors, these restaurants themselves should be blamed for their failure, because they were targeting a market with a fairly small customer base.
As for those small restaurants that also failed in a country where business sometimes is done at the banquet tables, restaurants are the important places for socializing, and cooking is even considered to be an art, they should reconsider the way they do the business.
Many restaurant owners, immediately after they rent a property, redecorate the place at very high costs.
But, sometimes they find that the business is not as good as they anticipated. With huge refurbishment costs, property rental and labor cost all running high, how can they break even or make a profit in a short time?
With a mindset for quick success, they give up easily, so small restaurants change hands frequently. They should know that launching a restaurant is different from trying one’s luck to hit a jackpot— it calls for patience and resilience, not just a prime location and quality food.
Rome was not built in one day and this also applies to the restaurant businesses. Time is needed to build food brands like the dumpling restaurant. We need these time-honored eateries.
A dumpling restaurant in Beijing.