The Chinese Buffet launched its first restaurant in Bolton in 2006 and following a policy of steady growth the chain during the past ten years it recently opened its tenth branch in Huddersfield, with another site planned for Darlington in the coming months.
“The Huddersfield restaurant is performing really well,” explains Forrest Hu, Marketing Assistant. “In fact it’s actually one of our best buffets so far. It’s proving to be busy even in the weekdays and during off-peak times such as mid-afternoon. I’ve been down there myself a few times and it’s always busy throughout the day. We’re really happy with how it’s been performing.
“As for the reasons why it’s been so successful, there are a number of factors including the location and the demographic of Huddersfield generally. We’re fortunate that all of our branches have done quite well but the location in the town centre has been particularly beneficial for the Huddersfield site. In addition, we have incorporated a new template at the restaurant so there is not only a teppanyaki grill but also an open kitchen, which is proving to be very popular. We’ve also expanded the choice that’s available during the lunchtime period and the grand buffet in the evening.
“We’re really pleased with the décor as it’s really up-to-date and stylish, while there is also a private bar and a seating area for larger parties that want to book in advance. We try and keep the template very similar because we have found something that really works for us. However, we obviously needed a sizeable restaurant for the Huddersfield site, not only for customers but also for the teppanyaki grill, the open kitchen and the back of house facilities as well.”
As it looks to build on the success of the Huddersfield site, there are now plans to add a restaurant in Darlington as it looks to spread its influence further east. “We have quite a few buffets in the North-West but we want to open around 18 new restaurants in the next five years and these will be further afield. The more we grow the more competitive the market becomes so we have to develop our services and the expectations accordingly. The aim is to break the perception of buffets as just being a place to eat lots of food. Instead the focus is very much on quality, not quantity.”
“We have quite a few buffets in the North-West but we want to open around 18 new restaurants in the next five years and these will be further afield. The more we grow the more competitive the market becomes so we have to develop our services and the expectations accordingly.”
Forrest Hu, Marketing Assistant
With this in mind The Chinese Buffet has looked to further develop its supply chain and supporting infrastructure. For example, it is currently building its own production line in Wigan to unify all the food preparation at a single location. Ingredients and sauces can be prepared fully before being transferred to the restaurants. This site will provide the capacity to support the growth of the restaurant portfolio.
As well as adding to its portfolio and improving its food preparation facilities, The Chinese Buffet has been sure not to neglect its existing restaurants having refurbished its Halifax site in February. “It took three weeks so everything is brand new and we have had a really positive reaction since it reopened,” adds Forrest. “Unfortunately business in Halifax is quite slow in general and although it’s performing well we need to find ways of getting people to eat out more.
“We try and refurbish every restaurant every three years. This helps us to keep the dining experience fresh and stylish.”
Although it is clear that The Chinese Buffet is looking to continue growing its portfolio there are potential hurdles along the way that the company is aware of. “As we expand and the number of sites increases, we will have to bolster the workforce accordingly and we are looking to rise to the recruitment challenge,” says Forrest. “We have a great team at the moment but we have to ensure that we continue to get the right people to support our future growth. We have also worked hard on staff development, utilising online training and videos to make the process that bit easier and more fun. We’re working towards having a uniform training programme for everyone to really maintain the standards that we’re looking for across all of our restaurants.
“Moving forward from a growth perspective, in the short term we’re focused on getting the Darlington site up and running. Looking at the longer picture, we really want to develop a national brand that we can roll out across the country. We have plans to hopefully become a franchise in the future, which would really allow us to push forward more rapidly. It’s a very exciting time for the business.”
2016 may mark The Chinese Buffet’s tenth anniversary but it’s clear that the company is looking to chalk up many more years of operation as it drives forward with its expansion plans.