Time-hon­ored busi­ness recipe fla­vors restau­rant suc­cess

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By GAO JIN’AN Con­tact the writer at gao­jin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

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