Dumpling appetites grow after Xi drops in
Updated: 2014-01-18 01:05
By CAO YIN (China Daily)
Restaurant chain boosted by presidential seal of approval
Zhu Yuling's mobile phone has hardly stopped ringing since President Xi Jinping dropped in on one of his steamed dumpling restaurants for lunch in December.
"I received at least 200 calls recently. The callers asked me whether they can join my group and how to become partners. I'm so busy now," said Zhu, general manager of the restaurant chain's holding company, the Beijing Huatian Restaurant Group.
Since Xi's surprise visit to the Qing Feng Steamed Dumpling Shop branch on Yuetan North Street in Beijing's Xicheng district on Dec 28, Zhu said business has boomed.
Daily sales volume for the chain's 183 branches in Beijing and Hebei province has risen by up to 40 percent, with the shop Xi visited being diners' favorite, Zhu said.
Previously, sales at the shop were about 42,000 ($6,940) yuan a day, but they reached more than 53,000 yuan on New Year's Day, Zhu said, adding that daily sales have risen by about 5,000 yuan at other shops.
Many diners are opting for the set meal that Xi ordered — six traditional steamed dumplings filled with pork and green onion, a Beijing-style snack and some vegetables. His bill came to 21 yuan.
"Many customers wait in line before our shops open, while sometimes at 9 pm we can't close because there are still diners inside," he said.
But the business boom has had one side effect — more dumpling makers are needed.
"Our dumplings are handmade. Although we have added four or five workers at some of our popular shops, especially the one the president visited, some customers still have to wait," Zhu said.
But he said he will not raise the price of dumplings, and has no quick expansion plans for the business.
"Whether a business can do better depends on its product quality, so we take great care to ensure that every steamed dumpling is safe and good," he said.
Zhu also said it is difficult for the group to deliver to remote areas fillings for dumplings that can only remain fresh for two days, as transportation costs are high.
"Opening more shops blindly is not a sensible idea to me," he said.
Beijing resident Tang Yu said the flavor of the Qing Feng steamed dumplings may be more suitable for people living in northern provinces.
Tang said the Qing Feng Steamed Dumpling Shop branch in Chaoyang, which is near her office, has been doing good business since the end of December.
"Some people who live or work far from the branch also come there for lunch, making the restaurant more crowded," she said.
The 25-year-old said she cares more about food quality and the brand's traditional flavor, rather than Xi's surprise visit.
But many think the president's trip to the restaurant will help boost time-honored traditional brands.
Wang Xiulan, chairwoman of Zhang Yiyuan, a traditional tea brand, was excited to learn that Xi had visited the restaurant, seeing it as a sign that the new leadership is paying attention to reforms for time-honored brands.
"People like us because of our product's good quality ... If we want to keep our reputation, we must develop our advantages," she said.
Sun Jie, president of the Beijing Food Association, said traditional brands should adapt to the market.
"I'd like to provide investment for time-honored brands to reform, but first they must guarantee their food safety, have awareness to compete in the market and learn to innovate," she said.