The fast and the furious – key success factors to Dainty Dumplings’ rapid growth

When Marko Li opened the first Dainty Dumplings restaurant at Westfield Miranda in 2012, his future plans included opening more outlets… eventually. But even he has been surprised by the rapid expansion of his business, which now comprises of five stores with plans for even more. “Dumplings are very popular,” he explains, “both in Asian and Western markets. But there wasn’t really a decent place operating in Miranda, so I jumped at the opportunity. There was a huge demand, and word spread so fast that we quickly opened additional outlets.”

Key to his initial success has been ensuring he has a great product. “Our dumplings are freshly made every morning, and we only make enough for that day,” he says. “We don’t store them overnight, and we use only the freshest ingredients.”

Rapid success has meant rapid growth; however the swift expansion has not been without its challenges. “The main one is getting the right people,” Marko explains. “It’s important that we have really good chefs, but there’s a shortage of skilled kitchen staff that’s pretty much industry-wide. Restaurant owners are having trouble finding and retaining good staff. But we’ve got a really good program in terms of training and career progression.”

A successful marketing strategy has also been key to the business’ rapid growth. “Over time we’ve refined our marketing plans,” Marko explains. “Every time we open a new restaurant we do a pre-launch, then a grand opening. And we participate in food markets to increase our brand awareness.”

In addition, Marko stresses that their digital strategy is also an essential marketing tool. “Most customer feedback happens on social media,” he says. “These days, everyone’s on social media. So it’s definitely one of the most important marketing tools for us.” Marko stresses that listening to customer feedback is essential to the continual improvement of their products and menus, which means platforms like Facebook are vital to the business, as is their website.

Continued success and increasing demand has seen Marko include a centralised kitchen for creating the famous Dainty Dumpling products. The new, innovative kitchen will also provide economies of scale, in that Marko will be able to get products from their suppliers at a cheaper price, and will be able to save on labour costs. “Everything will be prepared in one place, and then delivered to the different outlets,” he explains. “And since our menus are constantly evolving and being updated, it’s even more important that we’re as efficient as possible. We have a constant process of improvement and listening to our customers.”

Marko has some very good, sound advice for anyone going into business, but most especially those who may face some of the rapid expansion challenges he has:

  • Well trained staff – “train your staff well, and do everything you can to retain them,” he says. “Reward them, incentivise them, not just with their salary.”
  • People working FOR the business – “you want people who are working hard, for the business, without a lot of supervision,” he advises. “So you need to make them feel loyal to the business. You want them to be working FOR the business, rather than IN the business.”
  • Keep control of your cash flow – “it’s great to expand your business, but it is challenging as well as risky,” he warns. “You need to keep a firm control of your business’s cash flow, and don’t let it get out of hand. If you don’t understand it properly, get advice from someone who does.”

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