Li Chujiong, the general manager of Hainan Carrianna Holdings, dispenses advice in the kitchen.
When Li Chujiong, the general manager of Hainan Carrianna Holdings Limited first came to Hainan and decided to open a restaurant in 1993, most people on the South China island ate at public stalls. After 17 years of hard work, Li’s company has become the dominant catering group in Hainan.

Li found his business opportunity when the government made Hainan a special economic zone. Cantonese Li and his wife Xie Minyi launched their first company with HK$ 40 million ($ 5.12 million).

"In the first two years, my wife and I worked like rolling machines. We had to receive every client, drink with them and ask them for suggestions," Li says.

But with the hard work came success. Two years after Hainan Carrianna Holding Limited Restaurant opened, it was common for diners to wait in line outside for an available table.

"Eat in Carrianna" became a catchphrase in Hainan.

And as Li’s business soared, so did Hainan’s economy, driven by the rising property prices. However, when the real estate bubble burst in 1997, the economy of Hainan slumped and with it Li’s business.

"At that time, many of my friends who had been working in overseas-funded enterprises chose to leave Hainan. My business was affected as well. There were no people waiting outside for tables then," Li says.

To leave or to stay, that was the question. After considering it for a long time, Li finally decided to stay, lowering his prices and improving the service. A cheap Cantonese morning tea and a combination Chinese and Western buffet dinner became the staple menu at that time.

"In an attempt to attract as many customers as possible, I used to dress up like Santa Claus at Christmas and as the God of Wealth at the Spring Festival," Li says.

Nowadays Li’s company is thriving again, as Hainan’s economy has recovered and developed a diversified food scene, which includes international restaurants. "Now, I already think of myself as a Hainan resident, and I will never leave here. In fact, I will try my best to make a contribution to Hainan," says Li.

SOURCE: China Daily


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