China pizza chain remakes itself as seafood specialist

One of China’s most popular restaurant chains is remaking itself as a seafood buffet dining establishment for middle-class families.

Origus Pizza Buffet, known locally as Hao Lun Ge in Chinese, is upgrading and reopening stores in Beijing with a large seafood service, according to company CEO Ma Shiwei.

Ma recently treated local media to a preview of his new fare, which includes imported salmon, cod and a variety of domestically processed shrimp.

Operated by Beijing Origus Food & Beverage Ltd, with nearly 100 branches nationwide, the firm is popular among young Chinese as well as families. The shift in strategy is part of the firm’s efforts to tap more young consumers, according to Ma. He pointed to a trend among Beijing restaurants to include seafood dishes on their menus.

“Seafood is being used to gain competitive advantage in the industry. It is seen among consumers as a kind of indicator of the restaurant’s quality,” according to Wang Shun Ge, boss of the popular Jing Ding Xuan chain of Cantonese-style restaurants, which counts Clearwater among its suppliers.

Wang was quoted in the Beijing Financial News in an article that also pointed out that even so called jia chang cai (“home-style cooking”) restaurant chains, popular among lower and medium income consumers, are switching to seafood. The newspaper reported that, among other restaurant companies, the Guo Lin chain has in the past year added “seafood” on banners outside its restaurants.

Private investors have been bullish about China’s mid-market restaurant segment, given the rise of China’s middle class. Origus has Western investors including U.S. venture capital firm MUS Roosevelt Capital, which invested an undisclosed sum in 2014. The number of Chinese earning over USD 20,000 (EUR 18,000) per year went from five million in 2002 to 300 million in 2015.


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