Interviewing entrepreneurs in China: Tips to start a restaurant business in China

China Paradigm interviewed Benjamin Patin, co-founder of Wheat Co. and Sailang to learn more about both his business story and the current healthy food market in China, and how to start a restaurant business in China.

Benjamin Patin, from a student to an entrepreneur in China

Graduated with a Bachelor of Chinese Languages from DongHua University in Shanghai, Benjamin Patin arrived in China in September 2007 after his baccalaureat to discover China. He first worked as an intern in a French factory producing displays for French brands, then decided to learn Chinese and English.

restaurant business in China
[Benjamin Patin, co-founder of a restaurant business in China]

After 11 years of living in China, learning to speak their language proficiently and working with them. He now has a better idea of the Chinese culture. Benjamin then developed a trading and sourcing company, Sailang Solutions. A few years later, he identified a real need for a healthy meal solution. He, therefore, created Wheat in 2015 in Shanghai and successfully entered the healthy food market in China.

Wheat Co., healthy food business in China

Wheat Co. is a healthy food business in China that helps people who want to take care of their body. Wheat Co’s goal is to help Shanghai people maintain a healthy lifestyle without giving up the pleasure of eating delicious and rich food.

healthy food business in China

“It’s not just about a diet, it’s about a lifestyle”.

As a healthy food business in China, all their recipes are made with fresh and organic ingredients, and all their beverages are organic. They also include macro nutritional information and calorie count on their products.

When it comes to a business model in China, they are operating from a small location which is 90% kitchen: customers can order via their phones, there is no service staff, only kitchen and a couple of tables for those who wish to eat there. Otherwise, people usually order takeaway and deliveries as they provide an efficient delivery system. They mainly use their Wechat account to do promotional advertising, especially promotions and special offers, which is wholly consistent since customers can order via the application.

How to decide to price in the healthy food market in China?

“Our added value is that we deal with the suppliers directly. We remove a lot of middlemen. When we did research online, we realized that many people sell through middlemen. And in the end, there’s one factory providing for everybody.”

According to Benjamin Patin, Today, with Alibaba, AliExpress, and all these platforms, it’s much more difficult to get a good price. Customer, they will go on Alibaba and compare the price. And most of the time, Alibaba is cheaper. So they try to get to the producer directly, which takes time, but in the end, they get better prices.

Import products in China
[Menus of Wheat Co., the restaurant business in China]

Import products in China for your business, with Sailang Solutions

Sailang Solutions is a company specialized in research and production of custom-made items, and consulting in China.

Sailang Solutions aim at assisting customers when importing products in China, by helping them to find quality products at competitive prices, as well as the establishment of a new brand in China.

Sailang China
[Sailang solutions, help to import products to China]

“To import one pallet is something that anybody can do. You don’t need to have a company for that. You just need to pay the taxes when they arrive then you can sell it however you want. However, import business with a warehouse in the free trade zone, to have trucks in China and to bring the product from A to B, B to C, or C to D, is something different.”

The shelf life for import products in China is very important. And entrepreneurs in China have to be careful of what they import, because if you it is not sold within two years, the product will go bad.

Online nutritionist to emphasize the identity of this healthy food business in China

“You pay for one month and you receive your food on a daily basis.”

As Benjamin Patin said, the company work into making a personalized solution for people to be able to adapt according to their schedule. Consumers can gain more information for free through nutrition consultation. For instance, how much calories your body should consume daily according to what goal you want to achieve.

Learning negotiation is essential when starting a restaurant business in China

“Because I speak Chinese and I like to do things by myself, I found the locations by walking around. Walking or on a scooter or a bicycle, but just like looking at what I want.”

Learning communicating strategically is an effective way to negotiate with local people using their language. Leasing a space is not an easy thing especially in terms of cost, environment, many things need to be considered because the business culture is very different. Currently, in Shanghai, many restaurants are closing down because ¥50 per day per square meter is huge. So entrepreneurs have to learn how to negotiate in China.


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