7 ways Australian restaurants can become China friendly

Over 1.1 million Chinese came to Australia in the past 12 months, and guess what they all had in common?

They all ate food here! Every single one of them. With over 2 million Chinese estimated to be coming to Australia by 2020 (they’ll all be eating here too), Australian cafes and restaurants have a massive opportunity to put food in the bellies of the biggest spenders in international tourism.

So, how can a restaurant or cafe stand out and capitalise on the appetites of Chinese tourists? Here’s 7 great tips to get you started.

1. Have a Chinese or bilingual menu

The language barrier continues to be the number one obstacle for Chinese tourists coming to Australia. And from my own experiences living in China, menus can be really hard to understand! With the modern hipster having their effect on restaurant and cafe menus around Australia, it is a bit much to expect a Chinese tourist to know what a quinoa and kale açaí anti-ox bowl is, or whether the paleo chia loaf is any good.

The solution? Give customers who you can identify as Chinese (ie by asking them) a bilingual menu which explains the items in an easy way, focusing not on directly translating everything, but on clearly identifying the foods used and how the meal is prepared. It is important to use lots of photos, and draw attention to your key specialties or recommendations. We can help you design the perfect Chinese language menu – contact us now.

2. Sharing is caring

Dining culture in China is quite different to Australia – whereas here everyone orders a meal, in China sharing several dishes is more common. Add to that the fact that when Chinese tourists come to Australia they want to sample as many things as possible. The recipe for success (mind the pun) is therefore for restaurants to include a few share platter items on the menu, and draw Chinese tourists’ attention to these. One sample platter could be a range of Australian seafood for instance, while another could focus on some choice cuts of Australian meats.

Such an approach could also be used for a range of other foods and even drinks. Remember, the more options Chinese tourists have, the more likely they are to find something they absolutely love and recommend to all their friends.

Seafood platters done right (Image credit: Tanya Lee)
Seafood platters done right (Image credit: Tanya Lee)

3. Accept UnionPay

We’ve said before it and we’ll say it again, Chinese tourists are not that familiar with Mastercard, Visa or American Express. If you want to make it easy for them to pay, there is really only one answer right now – UnionPay. This is the preferred payment method for 66% of Chinese travelers.

More importantly for restaurants and cafe owners, accepting UnionPay and having a sticker on the front door saying so can reap big rewards. According to Commonwealth Bank, Chinese tourists are 20 times more likely to enter a business with the UnionPay logo displayed. So if the restaurant next to you has the sticker and you don’t, they’re going to be getting 20 Chinese tourists for every 1 that you get.

Make sure you have the UnionPay sticker on your front door!
Make sure you have the UnionPay sticker on your front door!

4. Have free wi-fi

Whenever Chinese tourists come to Australia, they are always surprised at the lack of free wi-fi. Even though many Australian businesses have got better at this, there is still a long way to go. As we’ve written previously, Chinese tourists want to share their experiences online with their friends and family back home. Approximately 4 out 5 Chinese tourists share photos of their travels online through WeChat, Weibo and other platform, so make it easy for them to do so!

It is also really important to make it easy for Chinese tourists to know the name of your wi-fi network and the password. Due to their own perceptions about their language ability and the concept of “face”, they are probably going to be hesitant to ask your staff directly. Having a sign with the details in Chinese or a note in your menu really helps.

5. Take advantage of Chinese social media

Although the idea of using Chinese social media can be scary, it doesn’t need to be. For restaurants and cafes owners, it can be as simple as setting up a personal WeChat account and then advertising your “quick-response code” (QR code) on your business cards, menus and front door stickers. These QR codes may not mean much to your Australian customers, but to Chinese tourists passing by, they immediately signify that “this restaurant gets me”. They can then add you as a contact on WeChat, and the relationship can continue even after they’ve long left Australia. If they’ve had a great experience at your restaurant, these Chinese customers can be your brand ambassadors, liking your WeChat Moments and recommending you to visiting friends. To learn how to use WeChat Moments, WeChat has put together this helpful guide.

This is the WeChat Moments screen. Posting food pics is as common in China as it is here on Instagram!
This is the WeChat Moments screen. Posting food pics on here is as common as it is on Instagram!

Restaurants and cafes should also make sure that they are geotagged on FourSquare, so Chinese customers can tag your restaurant on their own WeChat Moments. NZCN Tourism has written a guide on how to do this here.

6. Engage with your online reviewers

Most restaurants and cafes wouldn’t know it, but they are already being talked about online by Chinese tourists. And with 62% of Chinese tourists researching food options before coming to Australia, restaurants really need to know what is being said about them. There are a number of sites that Chinese use to write reviews about restaurants, with the main one being Dianping. Travel guide websites such as Mafengwo and Qyer are also popular.

We can help restaurants and cafes check what Chinese think of their business, and even start influencing discussions by making recommendations or highlighting new dishes. Contact us to find out more.

7. Acknowledge Chinese festivals and important dates

All restaurant and cafe owners know that days like Valentines Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day will lead to a big increase in reservations. But very few businesses seem to be capitalising on the Chinese equivalents. On Tuesday (9 August) for instance, it was Chinese Valentines Day. I was walking around the Sydney CBD that night and I did not see one restaurant that had made any effort to target Chinese couples. On what would have otherwise been a quiet night, this would have been a great opportunity for restaurant owners (and hotels) to focus on Chinese customers with a special Valentines Day package. All is not lost though, the next major Chinese event that restaurants, retailers and hotel owners should be focusing on Singles Day on 11 November.

Want to have more Chinese tourists choosing to eat at your restaurant or cafe? China Ready Now can help! From translating and designing beautiful bilingual menus to improving your online reputation, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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