Haidilao opens bistro to lure in high-end diners

Chinese hot pot giant Haidilao has recently opened a Chinese-style bistro in Beijing under a new sub-brand. The restaurant, named The Hill Food & Drink, is aimed at a higher-end clientele, with an average price of 304 RMB (42.92 USD) per person. The Hill offers Southwest China (Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan) style cuisine, with a focus on charcoal grill and roast, as well as fermented delicacies.

With a café downstairs and an alcohol-serving bar upstairs, it reminds some of the “morning C (coffee) evening A (alcohol)” lifestyle, or “早C晚A” in Chinese. It came from the skincare routine of using products containing vitamin C in the morning and products with vitamin A in the evening. But the coffee and alcohol play on the phrase has become popular among cosmopolitan young professionals as it represents a “work hard, play hard” mentality.

The Hill is housed in what some visitors describe as an “art space”. A combination of rough walls and metal furniture are arranged in what some diners call “wasteland” or “industrial” style. But there are also elements of Southwest China like the small, enclosed patio with a decorative firepit in the design. The bistro offers an immersive dining (or drinking) experience with its themed furnishing and menus, which also appeal to young professionals looking for new experiences.

Bistros, sometimes called “小酒馆” in Chinese, especially ones serving Chinese dishes have been a particularly popular choice for diners looking for higher-end casual eateries and drinking options. In the last 12 months, the number of “bistro”-related notes on Xiaohongshu nearly doubled from around 180,000 to more than 350,000. Bistros’ cosy and casual atmosphere, hearty food and plenty of drink options have made them a go-to for both dating and relaxation.

Indeed, The Hill is not the first time Haidilao dabbled with bistros. Since 2021, Haidilao opened a series of in-store “bistro” corners in their hot pot locations that offer cocktails and liquors, but are not separated from the restaurants. Chinese-style tea chain Nayuki opened the BlaBlaBar in 2019, but all locations have since closed. In the same year, Starbucks opened a café/bar called Bar Mixato in Shanghai.

Haidilao has recently opened a sub-brand, Hailao Huoguo (hot pot). With an average price of 78 RMB (11.01 USD) per person, Hailao aims to extend the Haidilao brand to the affordable market. Hailao does away with the lavish service Haidilao is known for and mostly offers self-service to customers.

Along with the new bistro, Haidilao is positioned to adapt to “K-shaped” consumer segmentation. The “K-shaped consumer” is where more consumers are looking either for real bargains or genuine high-end products and services, while “accessible luxury” and “trading up” lose their attraction. The tendency is gradually becoming more apparent in the hospitality sector after the pandemic.


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