Now the hot pot chain, whose name is derived from a mahjong term that signifies a successful turnabout, has become so popular that it is now apparently worth more than a billion dollars. In China and at its overseas locations in South Korea, Japan, Singapore (and soon, London), it’s not unusual for hungry diners to wait two- to five-hour wait for a table. Rather than allowing the wait to put potential guests off, the chain of 200-and-counting restaurants has made a name for itself through offering the kinds of bells and whistles that most resorts, let alone your fave brunch spot, can’t match. They want to make waiting for your table at least as fun as actually getting there, and it takes more than a simple magazine rack and free water to make that a reality.
In the Chinese HaiDiLao outlets, waiting guests can opt for complimentary massages, salon services, web browsing with the restaurants’ computers, car washes, snacks, drinks, and more. Customers can spend their idle time chatting with friendly employees, reading magazines, or playing mahjong among themselves. And the benefits don’t only extend to the guests: loyal employees receive childcare benefits, subsidies for employees’ parents, and managerial training and opportunities. (However, the prospect of living in company-supplied dormitories, which is a common reality in Chinese working life, probably wouldn’t appeal to American workers.)