One of China’s biggest hot pot restaurant chains, Hai Di Lao, is moving into central London. The group — founded in the Sichuan province in 1994 operates 310 restaurants worldwide — will open a massive 10,000 square foot restaurant at the base the Trocadero, on Shaftesbury Avenue, between Piccadilly Circus and Chinatown, as originally reported by Big Hospitality.
Hai Di Lao — which means “fishing in the bottom of the sea” in Mandarin and refers to fortune in the Sichuan province — is known for its idiosyncratic approach to customer service in China, with customers offered free massages and manicures as they wait for a table — a wait that can reportedly clock in at two to three hours in many of the chain’s sites. According to a Bloomberg report last year, “customers are routinely entertained by staff resembling rhythmic gymnasts who twirl ribbons of dough into noodles that they plunge into bubbling pots of broth on diners’ tables.”
Having expanded into Seoul, Singapore, Los Angeles, and, most recently Times Square in New York City, its owners are used to adapting the offering: individual pots, a “nightclub environment” and pop music were all trialled in the U.S. to introduce diners to what had been presumed was alien concept. In London, however, hot pot restaurants are more established, and given Chinatown’s proximity to the Tracdero, the opening should resonate more clearly with London’s diners.
Savills, who advised Hai Di Lao on the lease, said: “It is testament to London’s reputation as a foodie capital that Hai Di Lao has chosen the city as its first European destination. The chain already has its sights set on expansion both in the UK and across Europe.”
As yet, there is no timeline for the restaurant’s arrival. But, as Caterlyst reports, Hai Di Lao hopes to add between 180 to 220 new stores to its global portfolio this year.