Home(Plate)Run – Ramblings on The Beijinger Restaurant Awards 2012 Part 1

it’s been quite the quiet week on the F&B front in Beijing considering that we’ve just had The 2012 Beijinger Restaurant Awards. Maybe everyone is still shocked that Home Plate BBQ took the big one home or maybe no one cared in light of a few chongqing related news that stole the spotlight. Either ways, let’s look at what went down:
Better start by reading the list on winners on The Beijinger ( Part one and Part two) as well as Beijing Boyce’s take on the win.

My first reaction when the winner was announced was: this yet another example of why democracy fails… people have no clue or recognition of what’s good and they should only be allowed to decide within certain regulated parameters. Then I came to think better of it: Home Plate is the anti Element Fresh: A down to earth place, local beijinger business, serving decent food and working hard to keep things honest. Patrons love it and don’t mind waiting quite sometime for a seat. This win is in many ways reflective of the Shanghai/Beijing debate: Expats here are more down to earth and care less about the superficiality of things.

now, let’s get something straight… It’s not in the same league as the fine dining establishments that are Maison Boulud, Salt, Brasserie Flo, Agua etc. But then again. we’re not talking about “Fine Dining Establishment of the Year” we’re talking about the reader’s votes for restaurant of the year and last time I checked, a restaurant is a locale where food is served. Home Plate BBQ qualifies.

What I am wondering though is whether or not this is a statement as to where the market is going: We’ve had it with overpriced western food in this city! Let’s face it, a lot of the western restaurants are plagued by service problems and attitude reminiscent of early Beijing days. The management behind these establishments doesn’t seem to understand or realize that times have changed and that there is stiff competition in the market.

If I hear the sorry of excuse of it being hard to find and train staff, I’m liable to puke over the person saying it. Some establishments like Salt, Capital M or Purple Haze, just to name a few, have managed for year to retain staff and deliver consistent service. Some of the local restaurants, albeit away from the expat radar, have such amazing service it might put a 5 star hotel to shame. If you’re going into F&B in Beijing, then you are aware of the staffing issue… you factor it into your business plan or you have no business plan!

Basically, I think Beijing’s expat population is fed up with the excuses at this point! If you want to offer fine French dining, then do it. If ingredients are a problem, then don’t open that type of restaurant. Same goes for any type of establishment.

In many cases, salaries are lower, life is more expensive and the folks are being a bit more conservative in their spending: RMB 500pp meals are no longer a norm, at least not for your everyday meal. If that 80rmb burger tastes like a whopper and I’m gonna get shitty service, tell you what, next time, I’ll go to Burger King….

To make a long story short, the next year might prove to be a year where “great value” runs supreme in the F&B industry. New restaurants will be opening away from the prohibiting rents of sanlitun & Co. vying for the value conscious customer that doesn’t mind going an extra 5mn for a better experience. These place will be unburdened by rent while they get properly set, build up a customer base! At least I’m hoping so… I’m curious to hear other thoughts.

4 thoughts on “Home(Plate)Run – Ramblings on The Beijinger Restaurant Awards 2012 Part 1

  1. I voted for Home Plate as the restaurant of the year for exactly the reason you said: it’s down-to-earth cheap delicious food. Having lived in Shanghai, one of the things I really enjoy about Beijing is the lack of pretension, so I try my best to avoid pretentious restaurants. It’s such a nice change of pace from Shanghai. Needless to say, I am saddened by the increasing number of pretentious places in BJ.

    In my opinion, when you spend money, you are voting. When I go to Home Plate, I feel good knowing that I am supporting and encouraging more restaurants of the Home Plate variety in Beijing. I refuse to spend money at places that put more effort into the decor than the food just to save face for the nouveau riche public.

  2. Good piece. I think Home Plate is great, but was a bit vexed by how it swept the awards. But I think you’ve nailed what the situation is and the consumer reaction. I look forward to seeing how this shakes out over the next year or so…

  3. Thanks guys.. I do believe the next few months might be interesting with more restaurants opening out of the way, pretty much copying Home Plate… whether they deliver or not is another issue

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