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Smartphone apps cut down wait at restaurants

By Chen Nan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-02-03 08:07:21

Fun before you dine

Chinese hotpot chain Hai Di Lao was among the first restaurants in China to offer entertainment and services in waiting areas. From free Internet and free snacks to Chinese checkers and poker cards, the restaurants have employed a variety of ways to entertain their guests over the past decade. Most recently, customers have also been surprised by additional services such as hand massages and manicures. In the dining area, Hai Di Lao is also known for its "noodle-dance show", which is performed by trained waiters. The dough is stretched into lengths of around 10 meters by the waiters, who swirl around with slender noodles in hand that end up going into the hotpot.

According to the restaurant group's spokeswoman, Tao Yiting, wait-time management is a critical area for the dining business. She says that waitlists for tables usually amount to 100 people at a restaurant and the number may double during weekends.

"When people are waiting outside the restaurant, they start to evaluate the service of the restaurant before the actual dining time," Tao says. "We aim to offer customers a good dining experience, both in and out of the restaurant."

The wildly popular Hai Di Lao was founded by a Sichuan province native, Zhang Yong, in 1994. The first restaurant was opened in Zhang's hometown, Jianyang. Then in 1999, Zhang opened his second restaurant in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province. With more than 80 restaurants around China, Hai Di Lao also launched branches in Singapore, South Korea and Los Angeles, and Tao says more will open in the United States and Japan this year.

"We will take our waiting-area services abroad, but we will make some adjustments in terms of customers from different cultures," says Tao. "But the core will be the same, that is, offering customers an enjoying dining experience from the moment they arrive."

 

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