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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong
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Celebrating 20 years of success, past and future

With uncompromising approach to sourcing the finest ingredients, yè shanghai has enjoyed a high return and revisit rate of customers from all around the world.

How many restaurants are still going from strength to strength after 20 eventful and sometimes financially turbulent years? This year yè shanghai in Pacific Place is commemorating two decades of serving up exquisite Shanghainese cuisine to discerning Hong Kong diners with its ‘20/20’ anniversary theme.

When the now popular eatery first opened its doors, Hong Kong was still getting used to its first ever Chief Executive, Chek Lap Kok airport was welcoming visitors still with that smell of being new, and electric cars were something you found in toyshops. Fast forward 20 years and you can now enjoy the traditional delights of yè shanghai in Hong Kong, Kowloon, Shanghai and Taipei. Yet the trappings of success and an expanded customer base have not dampened the passion and dedication to quality which has built this particular corner of the Elite Concepts empire.

Recipe for success
Seated in the plush yet warm ambience of the newly renovated interior, Damien Chang, General Manager of yè shanghai Group, ponders the ingredients which form its recipe for success that has resulted in no less than 12 Michelin stars in the past 7 years. “Our vision was to take Shanghainese cuisine to a new level. yè shanghai was the very first Shanghai restaurant in Hong Kong to serve traditional Shanghainese flavor in an elegant and grand environment, and food quality has always been the the major factor, and we have maintained a high standard for the past 20 years.” An example of this would be Damien’s personal favorite dish which is stir-fried river shrimps. On one hand, it is a very simple, delicious dish and quite difficult to make. However, unlike many other restaurants which might compromise, yè shanghai insists on using river shrimps. Although it takes more time to prepare, Damien confidently declares ”You can tell the difference when if you try it.”

From strength to strength
Thanks to this uncompromising approach to sourcing the finest ingredients, yè shanghai has enjoyed a high return and revisit rate of customers from all around the world, and it’s this exceptional degree of customer loyalty that has helped the restaurant tackle the challenges and ups and downs of the past 20 years.
But as Damien explains, in the early years this could not be taken for granted. “When yè shanghai first opened, many Shanghainese people criticized it for being not authentic and traditional. They didn’t trust that our food could be to such a high standard and true to the real Shanghainese taste. But after sampling for themselves, we usually won over the most critical of potential customers.”

Elegant surroundings and a reputation for quality are only two of the factors for the restaurants continued success in one of the most competitive F&B markets anywhere in the world, as Damien explained that his management style was also an important factor in ensuring continuity.

“I believe that management should be more flexible teaching staff, and also assigning their work according to their own capabilities.” Damien believes that a human-oriented philosophy is the only way to gain trust from both the customers and staff alike. And he must be doing something right, as several current staff members have worked with Damien since the day yè shanghai opened its door.

Looking 20 years ahead
Resting on its laurels has never been the style at yè shanghai however, and it is with one eye on the future that the group has launched its 20/20 anniversary theme, which entails a membership for regular customers to engage and enjoy some privileged offerings and an evening celebration event which featured dishes and wines being offered at their original 1998 prices!

Damien believes that the subtle changes will only increase the loyalty base of yè shanghai’s regular patrons, many of whom he has enjoyed lasting friendships with over the years, which he genuinely treasures.

“Some of them brought their families to yè shanghai, and I have witnessed their children graduating, seen them fall in love, get married, and have their own children. They now bring their parents back to us with their own children.”

Some well-known celebrity names were also mentioned during the interview, and you could feel the happiness from Damien’s smile when talking about the customers.

As yè shanghai looks forward to the next 20 years, who knows what changes will sweep across our ever-vibrant and hungry city? But one thing we know will never change, and that’s the yè shanghai recipe for success. “We are always looking for new ways to innovate” Damien explains. “We are constantly evolving.”Elite Concepts, the group behind yè shanghai is a recipient of this year’s Hong Kong High Flyers Award for Innovative F&B Concepts category.

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