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Location, Location, Location

Location, location, location! The three most important words in the world of real estate ring equally true in the restaurant world and for all but the most well-established names (who would have diners seeking them out in Antarctica if that was where they chose to set up shop), location should be at the forefront of any restaurateur's mind. Good real estate choices may help lay the foundation for success, but connecting the dots between concept, location and execution is what gets customers through the door and coming back for more.

From the local demographics and infrastructure, to the size of your space and examining whether your concept fits into the local neighbourhood, careful planning is crucial. Take Rosso Italiano for example. They have a great concept, combining Italian fine dining and art and in theory, when opening they chose an ideal location in 1933, a space billed as Shanghai’s latest hip and happening commercial and creative hub. However, like many things in Shanghai, the renovated abattoir has, as yet, failed to live up to the hype and its out-of-the-way location leaves it largely deserted – which is bad news for Rosso Italiano. On the other end of the scale is Shanghainese favourite Maggie’s, another restaurant way out of the city centre (located in the gardens of the prestigious Xijiao Hotel on Honggu Lu), but one that has managed to successfully play on its remote location and establish itself as a destination in its own right.

Unfortunately in Shanghai, even if you get your location absolutely right, there is another foe waiting in the wings: the landlord. Should the smell of success waft too strongly from a tenant’s kitchen, then the landlord is all too ready to increase the rent to obscene proportions, or refuse to renew the contract, all the while plotting to piggyback on the location’s success with their own (usually sub-standard) venture. A common theme in Shanghai, in recent months we’ve seen the popular nightclub SIN, French restaurant La Platane and Lawry’s the Steakhouse in Xintiandi all fall victim to sky-high rents. Long time favourite Azul and newcomer Madison share a landlord and a building on Dongping Lu that may soon be headed for a similar fate.

We’ll soon be mourning another much-loved name as mesa / manifesto is reclaimed by the local government. One bastion of the F&B scene that has managed to thrive (despite its striking 1920s French Concession villa and Soong family heritage making it a prime target for repossession) is Sasha’s. Industry veteran CEO Detlef Schneider has got the balance right and managed a successful ongoing collaboration with the landlord. An 11 year history and a recently re-signed five year lease shows that with careful negotiation and foresight, the real estate battle is not always over before it’s begun.

Shanghai Restaurant Week 

A week-long festival of food, DiningCity’s Restaurant Week started life in Amsterdam in 2004 and has since rolled out across Europe and beyond. The idea is simple: a fixed price menu that gives diners a chance to try out a new destination for a reasonable price and restaurants and chefs a chance to woo new customers. In Shanghai, Restaurant Week has been delighting diners’ taste buds (and wallets) with two editions since its debut last spring that saw 4,000 bookings at 33 restaurants throughout the week, and it’s coming back for more.

The latest round of Shanghai Restaurant Week will be served up from 7 to 13 March with over 40 top restaurants confirmed. A new two-tiered pricing system will be introduced for this installment, so a three-course lunch will be RMB 78 or 118 and dinner will be RMB 168 or 248. It’s online reservations only from 22 February on Plan ahead because the most popular restaurants can book out within minutes of being listed. And when all your dining is done, make sure you share your feedback on the website.



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