By: David Chung
In China, hotpot restaurants are everywhere. Haidilao is the most popular hotpot chain in China, where people are willing to wait several hours for a table without complaint. Many even enjoy the waiting time.
Waiting for hours seems like a tradition at Haidilao. How is this possible?
While you wait for a table, you can get free manicures, free shoeshines, free Internet access, free chess, free snacks (e.g., fruit cups, kabobs, and beverages), and free reading material (there is a magazine rack with everything from Nylon to newspapers for guests to read). Thus, customers have many things to do and do not get bored or angry.
When they finally get a table, restaurant patrons are immediately greeted by waiters bearing aprons, hairpins, cell phone cases, and eyeglass-cleaning cloths to protect them from the hot pot broth, and the waiters also offer hot towels for guests to refresh themselves with.
A skilled dancer twirls strands of noodles for the entertainment of everyone at the table. The noodles ultimately land in your pot of broth, absorbing its flavors, to be further accentuated by your dipping sauces.
Of course, the quality of food is also good. Haidilao works continually to improve its food. When customers complained that the soy milk was too thick, Haidilao worked to improve the flavor and began to offer lemonade as an alternative.
Haidilao also cares about personal dining style, and they offer personal hot pots, with most locations offering multiple partitions for family-style eating.
Haidilao satisfies almost every customer with almost any need. Their remarkable service attracts more and more people, and Haidilao’s extraordinary service is now well known.
To ensure good customer service, Zhang Yong, CEO of Haidilao, makes a considerable effort to promote good morale among the staff, with the logic that employees who believe their boss cares about them will work harder on the job. This employee-centric philosophy is embodied in Haidilao’s slogan: “Employees are more important than customers.”
Haidilao’s employees are housed in apartments that include air conditioning, local phone service, cable TV, Internet, and 24-hour hot water—perks that most Chinese would consider luxuries.
Haidilao also focuses on helping employees advance their careers as the company expands. Its management includes many employees who began their careers at the bottom and worked their way up.
Haidilao’s food is known to be excellent, but in a country where customer service is often viewed as an afterthought, it is Zhang Yong’s innovative approach to keeping customers and employees happy that has truly set Haidilao apart from the competition.