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Chinese Restaurant Owners are a Tough Bunch January 17, 2014

Posted by hslu in Chinese, Chinese Food, Economics.
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A Chinese restaurant owner in the 7 corners area here in Northern Virginia once told me that it is difficult to be a Chinese restaurant owner because Chinese customers are so picky that it was impossible to please them.

In her words, she said that:

They want the prices low.

They want the quantity of the food huge.

The want the taste of their Chinese food authentic.

And they want their service at Chinese restaurant quick and snappy.

One thing they don’t care was the ambiance of the restaurant. They are generally rowdy. They might allow their kids running around. Some of them are sloppy and messy. And many leave little tips.

In the words of Chinese,  she told me, Chinese customers’ expectation for Chinese restaurant is  “又要马儿好,又要马儿不吃草;” they want their horses fast and speedy but they don’t want to feed them.

She sometimes talked to me about her business because my wife and I were one of a few customers at their restaurant the first week they opened for business. We frequently visited her restaurant and knew her well.

With the ubiquitous of Chinese restaurants and all-you-can-eat cheap buffets in many cities of the United States, they vote with their feet and the owners are one their toes to keep them happy and satisfied.

Inside the restaurant, chefs are difficult to deal with too. They may have good credentials from China and they may have official license from a local government but once they are in the US for a while, things are likely to change.

They want less work, i.e., not busy at the restaurant is good for them. They want salaries high. They pay attention to the classified section of the World Journal  because they want to see job availability near his home. They don’t want to do side jobs. They want to leave at the right time. Some of them don’t have the habit to help others. When something upsets them, argument with other chefs, too much work, not enough money, you name it, they vote with their feet and leave you behind in the cold as well.

When this happens, inevitably the tastes of their dishes change usually to the worse. Long term customers notice the change right away and business suffers as a result.

When you are doing great business because of good food, authentic tastes or whatever, other restaurants with similar dishes will creep up near you and take your business away. More often than not, a new restaurant with similar line of dishes appears a few blocks away. The competition is cut-throat, in her words.

If god forbid an All-You-Can-Eat buffet opens its door near you, your business will drop precipitously to the point of not able to break even in many cases.  Now they get stuck with a long term lease and a lousy, sometime, money losing business. They get sloppy on the salary to their workers. They slack on money to their suppliers.  And finally they can’t stay open anymore and have to sell the business for little money.

The cycle repeats at Chinese restaurants in many shopping centers all over the United States.

That’s why I call the Chinese restaurant owner a tough bunch.

Such is the life cycle of a dedicated Chinese restaurant owner.


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