Fast-growing seafood restaurant chain opens in Wuhan
A high-end Chinese seafood restaurant chain has opened its 40th outlet in Wuhan, where the COVID-19 virus emerged last year.
The Xu Ji outlet was opened with fanfare and flowers at a commercial building in the Hankou district and is the second in two months opened by the Xu Ji operation, owned by Hunan Xu Ji Catering Management Co., a firm established in 1999.
The company hasn’t its goal, announced in 2018, of opening 50 restaurants by the end of 2020, but the expansion is proof the businessman behind the chain, Xu Guo Hua, has grand ambitions for the franchise. Xu increased his Xu Ji restaurant count from 22 in 2018 by focusing on fast-growing regional cities like Xi’an and Wuhan, where operation costs are lower and competition is less intense than in Beijing or Shanghai. Xu hires interior designers to combine Western design and décor with Chinese cuisine and a menu based on the seafood-rich Cantonese cooking style.
Speaking at a new Xu Ji Seafood outlet in Yue Hui Plaza in Xi’an, in north western China in 2018, Xu said his upmarket chain would serve import staples like salmon, tuna, and oysters.
China’s seafood restaurant scene is lucrative but largely fragmented, with countless standalone restaurants. Yet the sector has become more competitive alongside the build-out of China's cold-chain network, facilitating a wave of convenience-themed chains targeting young Chinese with seafood favorites like shrimp noodles and rice with whitefish.
China’s success in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic within its borders has allowed it to reopen consumer facing activity like catering, with the country this week announcing its gross domestic product grew 2.3 percent in 2020.