Haidilao founder, Zhang Yong has a net worth of US8.2 billion – making him the richest man in Singapore in 2019. According to Blomberg’s Billionaire’s Index, his wealth increased by 74 per cent in just over three months. The 48-year-old runs a successful Sichuan-style hotpot chain that raked in US$10.4 billion in sales from his 370 restaurants worldwide. The companny’s amrket value has also incresed to US$21 billion. The hotpot eatery started with just four tables and expanded tremendously ever since.
1. Grew up in a rural province in Sichuan
Zhang Yong’s journey to the top began in his hometown of Jianyang, a rural province in Sichuan. He came from a small country and didn’t go to college.
2. He didn’t eat at a restaurant untill 19 yrs old
Surprisingly, Zhang Yong never had once in his life the luxury to dine at a restaurant until he was 19. It was his first time visited a proper restaurant and was shocked with the lousy service provided. He shared that staff were rude to him and he also thought that the food was just okay, nothing exclusive.
That particular experience influenced on the way he viewed service and he was convinced that customers should be given a memorable time when they went out to share a meal with the family.
3. A former welder in tractor factory
He was then a factory welder in a tractor company when he decided to take the plunge in 1994 and quitted the job. He used his entire life’s savings to open a small restaurant. During his former job post, he earned a measly 83 Yuan per month which is very low.
4. The idea to open a hotpot restaurant, Haidilao
He decided to quit his job and start his own business. Zhang Yong opened a hot-pot restaurant with his then girlfriend who is now his wife. Together with his another friend and his girlfriend, they opened the first eatery that only had 4 tables to seat customers.
5. Promised his friends that the assets would grow multiple within five years
He was penniless during that time, so the others friends were the real investors. The entire investment on opening the restaurant was less than 10,000 Yuan. Even though he didn’t contribute much in terms of finance for the start-up, he promised others that their assests would grow to 150,000 Yuan within five years. He swore that if he couldn’t manage it, he would compensate them, he was determined at that time.
6. Haidilao: The biggest restaurant in Jianyang City
Though it was only a small outlet, they managed to edge the surrounding hot-spot stores out of market. Within a gew months, we’d become the largest hotpot restaurant in Jianyang. From having only four tables, they expanded by adding a whole floor. His restaurant had the best decor and even had air conditioning! Later in 1998, they opened their second store.
7. Strove to create memorable customer experiences
Haidilao has extra special services for people in line and little touches to make guests feel welcome while enyoying a hotpot meal. Inspired by his negative encounter during his first visit to a proper restaurant when he was 19, he explored the possibility of giving his customers unforgettable dining experience. Hence, Haidilao offers services like:
- Free manicures
- Free fruit & snack platters
- Free-flow drinks and tea
- Phone screen protectors and plastic bags for phone
- Free hairbands for long-haired customers
- Giant teddy bear for single customers
8. “I was dreaming of going to Beijing”
The famous hotpot chain grew from 1 to over 400 branches globally. Indeed, the formula of priotising great service worked like a charm. Now, Haidilao has a strong global footprint in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia to name a few. It took 30 years for Zhang Yong to grow the chain steadily.
Last year, Haidilao filed for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in Hong King to raise investments of up to US$700 million to expand their global reach further.
9. Learn from Steve Jobs
Zhang Yong has constantly reinvented the hotpot experience. He is leading the charge on the revolution to change perceptions about China’s service culture. The milestones he has clocked and riches he has accumulated are all learned from Steve Jobs. He wishes to bring Haidilao to new heights and as for the future, the richest man in Singapore has grand plans to inegrate cutting-edge robotics technology into his restaurants.