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Chain tastes success with noodles

By Zhang Li and Shi Ruipeng | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-30 09:01
Tang Yanhong, He's uncle, was the inspiration for his restaurant venture. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Since He Tao was 8 years old, he dreamed of owning a restaurant. Today, He is the owner of a chain of luosifen restaurants. Aimin, named for his aunt, has 140 outlets across the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

The 37-year-old was born into a family keen on cooking luosifen, which is a rice noodle served in soup with its stock made from river snails and pork bones. The dish is widely sold on the roadsides of Liuzhou.

He's uncle Tang Yanhong was a bench worker in a State-owned factory, but he began to secretly run a snack bar in the early 1970s when private businesses were not fully allowed.

"He had to do this business to supplement his monthly salary of 6 yuan. Otherwise, he could not feed his children," He said, adding that his uncle made 30 yuan a month from his "underground" luosifen business.

When China launched the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, Tang moved his streetside stand into a room, and later registered the earliest luosifen brand in Liuzhou.

"I grew up to the smell of luosifen, and my family felt that making it was a happy affair," He said. "So, when I grew up, I naturally wanted to open a shop selling the dish. My aim is to share this delicious food with more people."

A luosifen noodle set at the Aimin chain of restaurants, which has 140 outlets in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. [Photo provided to China Daily]

With the help of his uncle, He launched a store of his own in 2003, but it soon closed down because he had no idea how to make it work.

"I made lots of mistakes running the restaurant, but that didn't change my determination to pass my uncle's skills on and create a time-honored brand that could last for at least 100 years," he said.

After working for while at a McDonald's restaurant, He made a comeback and succeeded with his newly learned management knowledge.

In 2006, he expanded the business to Nanning, the Guangxi capital, and opened 40 chain stores.

Two years later, he helped bring this street food into the provincial list of intangible cultural heritage, and luosifen gradually grew into a specialty food.

"As the dish gained popularity, it also drew the attention of the government," He said. "They began to invite us to participate in the tourism festival, and then we made a splash by creating a giant bowl of luosifen shared by thousands of people."

From then on, the humble little bowl of rice noodles became an emerging local industry.

With the development of modern production technology, an instant noodle version of luosifen was produced around 2014 and became a huge hit online.

Besides his 140 stores in Guangxi, He's company also started making instant noodles and now produces 10,000 packets a day.

The annual output of the rice noodle industry is valued at 3 billion yuan in Liuzhou, and the instant noodle products are shipped abroad to the United State, Germany and the United Kingdom.

"I feel much luckier than my uncle as I was able to receive help and resources from the government to set up my stores," He said. "After getting this help, I was able to expand my stores to other areas outside Guangxi.

"My uncle told me that though it takes much less time to make a packet of instant Luosifen noodles, no matter how things changed, stay true to your mission and deliver it."

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