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Chinese Customers Show Healthy Appetite For UK Fish And Chips Restaurant

posted 9 Aug 2013, 03:22 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 9 Aug 2013, 03:23 ]

A restaurant in the English seaside city of Brighton, known for its traditional fish and chips, is attracting a growing number of Chinese customers with owners of the restaurant saying it's down to Chinese bloggers talking about the restaurant on websites like Weibo.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (AUGUST 7, 2013) (REUTERS) -  The Regency Restaurant in the English seaside city of Brighton has been serving traditional fish and chips for decades.

But over the past two years, the restaurant has seen a change in its clientele, with more visitors from China coming to sample the cuisine.

According to the restaurant's owners there are days when more than 70 percent of the customers are Chinese.

Emilio Savveides owns the restaurant with his brother, Roberto.

He says the restaurant's popularity is down to the power of the blogosphere.

''We always try and ask how they found it, and it's always on the blog, there's a blogger or there have been a number of bloggers over the years that have recommended the restaurant, and obviously as people come here they recommend the restaurant themselves and the blog is getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger and we're getting busier with that,'' said Savveides.

The restaurant provides a variety of dishes, including mussels, lobster, pasta and poultry.

But according to the restaurant's owners, Chinese customers tend to order the shellfish platter, one of the most expensive items on the menu, just under 50 pounds or around 77 U.S dollars.

On average, a table of four Chinese customers will spend between 80 to 90 pounds (124-139.98 U.S dollars) on a meal at The Regency, where as other customers spend less than half of that amount on their meals.

When asked about the popularity of his restaurant, Savveides says it's become so popular with Chinese visitors that some make a special trip down to Brighton for it.

''I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that a lot of them are students that come to the UK, and once they find out about the Regency Restaurant they seem to come from everywhere. We have people coming in from Oxford, from Birmingham, fromBristol, they just come to Brighton and it's a must do destination to come to the Regency Restaurant, have something to eat, take lots of pictures, and then off they go,'' he said.

Whilst other business across Britain have been struggling in the recession, Savveides said his trade has been boosted by bloggers talking about his restaurant, prompting others to come and tuck in to the dishes being served here.

''Obviously you are always looking out to see how you can get customers in, how you can improve how to get customers in. In our case we didn't have to do that. The customers came to us, so we were able to fill that void created by the recession, with the fact that we had that extra business that we didn't expect, and we're obviously very happy with it,'' Savveides, told Reuters TV.

One of those bloggers, who could've been responsible for the initial wave of Chinese customers eating at The Regency is Pauline Guo.

Guo came to England initially to study, she then went on to set up a blog and website called Red Scarf, where she posts information on places to visit in Britain.

She claims to have more than 54 thousand followers, and around two years ago she posted a comment on her site recommending Brighton's Recency Restaurant, without even trying the food there.

''The reason I created "Red Scarf" is just for Chinese people can feel like home in a foreign country. I think this is a positive thing, so I believe the people around me would not introduce bad things to me. Because they know that I will introduce it to more people. So I would decide what kind of things worth introducing, what are not worthwhile. I of course will guarantee the quality of my website, so I will do a lot work and research,'' she said.

Guo said she initially read reviews online praising the restaurant in English, and that's why she decided to write about it in mandarin.

As well as the power of bloggers and people posting messages on Chinese site Weibo, a lot of others are coming to the restaurant via recommendations from friends, like customers Jason and Ying Winder.

''I guess it's just a very traditional fish and chips and seafood variety as well, and a lot of Chinese people like seafood,'' said Jason when asked why the restaurant is attracting a growing number of Chinese customers.

''Chinese people would like to taste local cuisine. Fish and chips is so popular in UK, so Chinese people who go to UK would like to try fish and chips,'' added Ying.

Many of the Chinese customers, having eaten at the restaurant, then post comments about it on Weibo.

Weibo is one of China's most popular microblogging platforms, and it's long been a place used by companies to promote, lobby and win over a large important audience.

It's a site similar to Twitter used by more than 250 million users, and a lot of foreign companies keen to gain access to the Chinese market use Weibo to promote their products.

But The Regency didn't need to approach anyone to tap in to the Chinese market, and customers continue to post comments praising the restaurant's food online.