How to attract and accommodate Chinese diners
The numbers are amazing – more than 1 million Chinese tourists visited Australia in the past 12 months, and the numbers are growing rapidly. In 2015, Chinese visitors spent more than $8.3 billion here, and when making travel plans, a huge 45 percent of their focus is on the food and wine experience. Even better for restaurants and cafes, more than 30 percent are independent travellers in their late 20s and early 30s. They want a high-quality tourist experience with an authentic taste of Australian culture and food.
The China Ready program developed by Tourism Australia and Restaurant & Catering Australia is a great resource for tapping into this market, and offers staff training, directory listings and accreditation. Check their website at ChinaReady.com.au.
Reach potential customers
If you have staff who speak Mandarin, make use of them. We now have a large population with Chinese language skills. Set up a presence on WeChat – the Chinese social media channel that’s a cross between Facebook, Instagram, and blogging, with e-commerce thrown in. Facebook, Instagram and Google are not available in mainland China.
Use WeChat to post regular photos and deals
et up several Chinese staff as social media ambassadors, and give them guidance on appropriate posting, etiquette and security. Post once a day, just like you do on Instagram, and respond to questions. If you don’t have a Chinese speaker on staff, don’t panic – many young Chinese speak enough English to understand your answers, and photos of the desserts don’t need too much explanation.
You can rely on staff who speak Mandarin, but some menu translations will make it easier for everyone – the China Ready program providers stickers with the Chinese words for "beef", "chicken", “seafood” and "vegetarian". Or use a site like Fiverr.com to have basic words and welcome terms translated, then save them as graphics to use again.
Websites, QR codes and directions
QR codes are used for connecting through WeChat – have your WeChat code on the menu and website so people can link up effortlessly. Link to the pages on your website that matter most – this could be a page in Chinese that has information about opening times, menu and directions. Google Translate has a widget that can provide translation directly on your website – this will be appreciated by tourists from many countries.
Many tourists want to use public transport, so share maps and information about bus and train access. Make sure staff can do a quick napkin drawing to direct people to the bank, the train or another tourist site.
UnionPay is how Chinese visitors wants to pay for services. The bank charges are comparable to Australian fees, and many local ATMs have the UnionPay symbol. There are more UnionPay cards on issue in China than there are Mastercards or Visas worldwide, so it's very important to have this option – talk to your bank.
It’s universal – many people won’t eat until their plate has been photographed! All the better if you want tourists to show your food to their 500 WeChat friends, and chefs everywhere are making food more photogenic. Chinese people appreciate the skill of food preparation and quality, so let’s help them celebrate!
Tableside and tipping etiquette
We’re known for friendliness, so make sure tourists are welcomed and treated as warmly as the locals. Coach staff how to speak slowly and clearly – it’s surprising how few think to do this. As for tipping, the Chinese expect to have a service charge applied to their bill – you may want to give guidance in the Chinese section of your menu.