Ep. 047 – How to Make an Award-Winning Restaurant, Sauce Line, and Cookbook with Lisa Tse, CEO of Sweet Mandarin

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Today we have Lisa Tse, CEO of the Chinese restaurant, Sweet Mandarin in Manchester, United Kingdom… well… she does a lot more than just that.

The Tse family has done the impossible: in 12 years, Sweet Mandarin has an award winning restaurant, their own factory making sauces for the Queen of England, and they write best selling cookbooks.

This is an interview you don’t want to miss as Lisa really gives you a run down on what makes her brand so successful. The stuff she does is not easy..like listening to customers, or being on TV shows like Gordon Ramsey and Dragon’s Den, but I try my best to dissect those secrets.

I’m serious, there is so much good advice in this episode, I couldn’t even categorize all of it. Every single sentence that Lisa says, is valuable advice whether you’re in the restaurant industry, products industry, or even want to write a cook book.

If you want to get into any of those things, this interview is for you.

Apologize for a bit of noise, we’re in a kitchen that’s how hard Lisa works!

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Key Takeaways 

– How Lisa got into Dragon’s Den (Shark Tank) and how her experience was
– Believe in your product, know your target market, know your demand
– The Queen of England buys their sauces

Question Summary

Why did you make your own factory?: We wanted to control the Gluten-Free, MSG free, and nut-free process
The secret to amazing products: knowing your customer questions. Always answer customer demands.
How did you get to where you are today?: Have a clear idea on what you want to do.

General Advice:

Gap in the market for Chinese food in Britain
It’s good to forecast in the future
Do a price point and ask why (can they afford it?)
Her and 2 sisters sold their houses to start a restaurant in the middle of nowhere
Partner with corporate customers
Make customers return, collect their data through emails and facebook
Influence the bloggers
Partnering with public schools on how to learn how to cook Chinese food (lots of press)

Was it one big day that caused your popularity to explode?: Yes: TV spots, cookbooks, products, brand equity
Big Day, ITV British TV “Will the girls launch the restraurant in time?”
Gordon Ramsey’s F word – They won best local Chinese Restaurants
Cookbooks: New York Times Best Seller
Her sister even wrote a book that got adapted in a play in Hong Kong
Members of the British Empire for their sauces

My Food Job Rocks: It’s all about the customers and their experience, also an amazing team and the team can make an impact
How do you hire good employees?: They have to do the job description at the end of the day. No matter what.
What food trends and technologies are really interesting you right now?: Street Food, Sugar-Free Sauces,
Biggest challenge in the food industry we need to face?: Obesity
One Thing you’d like to know about: Shelf-Space in Retail
Who inspired you to get into food?: My Family, Ken Hom in Britian Cooking TV
Favorite Quote: The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step
Favorite Book: The Bible, I read it every day
Favorite Kitchen Item: Her Wok, also Sweet Mandarin Wok: Licensing the brand
Favorite Food: Sweet and Sour King Prawns
Most Popular dish in Sweet Mandarin: Sweet and Sour Chicken, Clay Pot Chicken, Chicken Curry, Chilli Aubergines
Any advice to start what Sweet Mandarin does: Write a business plan, find a mentor, working capital, focus on quality
What’s next and where can we find you: Youtube videos; sweetmandarin.com; sweetmandarin.net; Instagram; facebook, linkedin; twitter.

Dragon’s Den
Online shop sweet mandarin
Mable’s Clay Pot Chicken
Meal Kits
Artisan Food Shops

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