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Wenheyou: when "Wanghong Restaurants" are becoming a new business model in Chinese catering

Wenheyou, a newly-developing catering brand, opened its first restaurant in Shenzhen, China, on 2nd April. The restaurant suddenly blew up all the social media and flooded everyone's Wechat Moments quickly as a high-speed train just flashed across its store.

Photo 1: A high-speed train passed by Wenheyou

Located in between Guangshen Railway and Buji River, with high-speed trains running forth and back unceasingly, Wenheyou occupies an unrivaled position, attracting thousands of hundreds of diners on its opening day. "Spectacular" is not adequate to describe this over 500m line-up anymore, which caused a big traffic jam.

Photo 2: Endless queue shared on the Internet

Besides the bustling situation at the spot, online flow is more incredible. To help customers get a ticket number conveniently and lined up virtually without waiting under the bright sun for hours, Wenheyou has already signed up for a WeChat public account in advance to ease the aggravated congestion. However, the reserved tables still soared up to over 50,000 rounds, with a staggering increase rate of 1000 increased tables per 10 minutes at least.

The prosperous scene also brought the joining of speculators and scalpers in the following days. Queuing service was provided at a rate of 5 USD/h (roughly). A cup of milk tea was quoted as 30-40 USD online including delivery whereas premium mike tea is sold at around 4USD in the high-end market.

This exaggerating line-up and online reservation were remaining for weeks, to which none of the Michelin-starred restaurants can compare.

Photo 3: Night scene of Wenheyou

Rather than running a small-scale store, Wenheyou restaurant owns a 4-story building with nearly 20,000 square meters, incorporating over 100 sub-brands and more than 10 UX modules. Inspired by so-called experiential marketing, the design of the restaurant is based on Shenzhen’s community style of the 1990s, reconstructing the historical and retro sceneries to resonate with the consumers, arousing consumers' nostalgic feelings and the memory of childhood.

Photo 4: The interior layout of Wenheyou

Instead of calling it a restaurant, Wenheyou is more like the epitome of a comprehensive food market. The joint settlement of well-known sub-brands enriches the diversity of the food. Chayanyuese(Mike tea brand), Macau pork bun, Changsha stinky tofu, Deng’s cakes & pastries, Grilled oyster, Changsha grilled sausage, Steamed rice rolls are the bestselling and must-try products.

Photo 5: The interior layout of Wenheyou

To open its first restaurant in Shenzhen, Wenheyou makes a big effort in preparatory work. Catering to the various tastes of eaters in this huge immigrant city, Wenheyou makes thorough and in-depth research on the food market, exploring and digging Shenzhen’s local delicacy in every single street to make a list of food favored by the young generation. Meanwhile, Wenheyou strives to gather the classic and regionally typical snacks originated from the Greater Bay Area (Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao), synthesizing them into a fusion dish.

After raising the huge attention of society, the discussion toward the waiting line and the brand is overwhelming. The heat of the related topics is even surpassing Wenheyou’s very first restaurant in Changsha (Wenheyou is a brand initiatively launched in Changsha, Hunan province).

“People are going crazy. Rationally, you cannot even imagine how this happened.”Said Aileen, a local young white-collar. Like many people assumed, Aileen reckons Wenheyou spends numerous money in hiring queuers, wrapping the restaurant in a crowded condition.

“It not strange to associate it with that because the tactic is frequently used by many brands in the market. For instance, when a new milk tea brand opens a shop, marketers will pay freelancers and ask them to ram in line, convincing people that their brand worth a try. Usually, the length of the line will not exceed 100 meters. ”Aileen added.

“That’s why I feel confused there because I don’t believe a brand would pay a great deal of money just to organize a huge buying army. That line is really miles away. Only idiots will indeed attempt to book a table online while they saw hundreds of table-rounds are reserved ahead, let alone 50,000.”

“The funniest thing is that one of my friend she paid a delivery service to buy a cup of milk tea, which is priced at 300 RMB, and she just sipped that drink to satisfy her curiosity. And the next second, she resold it at 100 RMB on WeChat because it’s costly for her to bear that high price.”

Many doubts were also appearing on the Internet regarding the exaggerating line-up. A netizen posted an interesting question, and it induces extensive discussion online. he asked if people rather wait in line for eight hours to buy Shenzhen's first cup of Youlan latte, or take the high-speed train to Changsha to buy one. He is saying so because Changsha chain restaurants maintain a normal and regular customer volume.

Photo 6: A motto was painted on a piece of wall in Wenheyou

Time is money, Shenzhen's famous motto is proved again. Some people took the high-speed train to Changsha (3-hour trip) and purchased dozens of drinks and snacks from Changsha's Wenheyou, and brought them back to Shenzhen, selling next to those who are queening for arbitrage, reported by Shenzhen TV.

This the charm of “Wanghong restaurant”. Chinese people give that title to name restaurants like Wenheyou, which are striving to shape their restaurant into a top trend on social media. It is characterized by distinctively storefront design and sensational marketing campaigns, with the purpose to accumulate large popularity and fame and create a fantastic UX, thus, a high ROI and short payoff period. Instead of inviting a celebrity or KOL to promote their brand, they craft themselves to celebrities directly.

Capturing that young people's pursuit of Wanghong restaurants and "bestselling products", a large number of new entrants, brands, and business models have emerged constantly in the market in recent years, which greatly stimulating the development of the catering industry.

However, wanghong restaurants are always criticized by consumers. The problems of low performance of food, mediocre service, and unreasonably high price are prominent as time reveals. Some restaurants become stagnant or even disappeared within a few weeks as their heat is cooling and dimming.

“They should go back to the nature of catering, which essentially is the quality of food and service.”Xiaoming, a wanghong hotpot restaurant owner shared his opinions toward the Wenheyou campaign. His 300-square-meter restaurant can receive more than 500 table rounds per day in the past 6 months. Sometimes his restaurant has to stay open to 2 a.m. to serve all the crowds. He is not jealous of Wenheyou. He stresses the significance to maintain the brand image in a long term.

His wanghong restaurant uses a much gentle way to promote compared to Wenheyou. “We also have competitors in the market, they copy our brand creativity, our tableware style, and our hotpot basis, shamelessly, but they failed after the stunt. And we still have many loyal customers to support us. You can hype your brand like Wenheyou and become the rage in a short time. it’s a good strategy as a latecomer, and it works very well, but what will be your next step to retain your crazy line-up? ”

Xiaoming’s opinion implies an important point. Consumers are indeed obsessed with wanghong restaurants, but they also have their standard to judge if a restaurant is wanghong or not. And judge lies with the consumers. It is not depending on how brands say who they are.

In April, Wenheyou’s online reservations were remaining at least 10,000~20,000 per day. The wave was lasting than ever wanghong restaurant before.

Photo 7: The crowded Wenheyou

“This shows Wenheyou strong brand vitality. Its success cannot be without its comprehensive research on the young generation. And it also brings in the cultural stuff and enhances customers' sense of belonging and brand recognition through their food offered, store design, and brand concept. ” Compliments from a current affair commentator of Shenzhen TV.

Influenced by its profound marketing campaign, still many young people successively visit the restaurant nowadays, celebrating their pleasing experience in Wenheyou on the media. It seems that common Wenheyou has managed the shortages of wanghong restaurants and evolved the previous failure model. Updated today, the line-up of Wenheyu is already down to 260 table rounds per day, but it is still extremely busy work for staff to serve such a volume of customers.

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