Chinese New Year 2019 is fast approaching and Lee Kum Kee, the number one Chinese sauce brand in Hong Kong is sharing 6 key tips to help UK foodservice operatives maximise sales from the forthcoming festivities. The Year of the Pig begins on 5 Feb 2019.
Maria Chong, Managing Director of Lee Kum Kee Europe Limited comments ‘There’s a real buzz around Chinese food at the moment and Chinese New Year is such a big opportunity for foodservice operatives who should be capitalising on this and maximising their sales with creative menu options, fusion flavours and most importantly traditional, quality ingredients as seen in Lee Kum Kee’s range of authentic, top quality Chinese sauces.’
Chong continues ‘We’re investing in a campaign with celebrity chefs Ken Hom and Gizzi Erskine to help encourage awareness and trial of Lee Kum Kee’s range of authentic sauces and drive the Chinese New Year sales opportunity. It’s key we inspire consumers and showcase the history, versatility and authenticity of Chinese food. Ken Hom has been helping Western consumers to cook Chinese food for decades and Gizzi Erskine uses travel inspiration from Asia to create innovative fusion recipes.’
Tip 1: Stocking the right ingredients
Stocking up and promoting the right ingredients is a key factor in maximising sales over the Chinese New Year period. Chinese New Year will drive strong dine-out growth, having classic Chinese dishes such as stir-fry soy noodles and mushrooms braised in oyster sauce, kung pao chicken and broccoli beef would be easy sells. For the European restaurants, it would also be a good time to test out fusion flavours and add a touch of Asian influence. Lee Kum Kee’s forthcoming campaign with Ken Hom and Gizzi Erskine will help inspire consumers through a social media and PR campaign, demonstrating how Chinese sauces and cooking can be applied to western recipes in a fun and innovative way.
Tip 2: Story-telling to engage your customers
Celebrity Chef and Chinese Food Guru, Ken Hom, comments “In Chinese tradition, many food items are associated with a certain wisdom or have a special symbolic meaning. For Chinese New Year, fish, chicken, tofu and noodles are some of the must-have items for a traditional family gathering, for example eating a whole chicken with family members means ‘a united front’. Tofu is associated with happiness whilst eating noodles on New Years’ day means good health and longevity in life. It is also tradition to braise mushrooms and lettuce in oyster sauce during Chinese New Year for a year of fortune ahead.”
Restaurants can be creative and provide interesting stories in Chinese New Year themed menus to inspire diners and motivate them to select certain dishes on the menu.
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Tip 3: Education
Despite the nation’s love of Chinese food and its rich and flavoursome taste, usage of Chinese sauces is still fairly unfamiliar to the mainstream public and more education is needed to help consumers and the trade get the best out of the sauces. For example, sesame oil is great for dressing but it doesn’t hold up well as a deep frying oil as the temperature tolerance is fairly low, similar to olive oil. Dark soy sauce is not meant to be for seasoning, and is mainly used for its colouring. In addition, meat used in stir-fries can be pre-marinated in oyster sauce making it extremely flavoursome. Chinese New Year is the perfect time to get consumers more engaged with Chinese food, products and dishes, and discovering such tips will help drive long-term growth.
Tip 4: Be authentic
With overseas travel now more common than ever and the social media age offering easily accessible information, consumers demand true authentic taste and dishes in the UK. It is important for restaurants to understand the local Chinese tastes while adapting it to the British palate at the same time. Lee Kum Kee has developed a wide range of foodservice sauce products, including Premium Oyster Sauce, Chilli Bean Sauce and Hoisin Sauce. These are concentrated products that provide chefs with the classic Chinese flavours, while offering them the freedom and creativity to adjust the taste with other ingredients and develop their preferred flavour profile.
Tip 5: Timing
The Chinese New Year celebration is more than just a day. The Chinese community usually starts celebrating two weeks ahead. This year it will fall on February 5th, and the celebration can last for another 2 weeks. Therefore, promotion or special menu offers should last for a month instead of a few days. The Chinese New Year gathering is all about banqueting and food sharing, so instead of the usual a la carte choices, a tasting menu could be an ideal offering allowing diners to try Chinese dishes that they might have never experienced before.
Tip 6: Expand your oriental free-from options
Consumers are looking for a broader array of meat-free and gluten-free menu options. Chinese New Year is a big opportunity to broaden your audience and maximise free-from menu sales.
The global gluten-free products market was valued at GBP 11.58 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow by 9.3% from 2017 to 2025.* Lee Kum Kee has expanded its range in answer to the growing demand for gluten-free alternatives, with its Gluten-Free Oyster Sauce especially designed for the food service. This is the secret ingredient of top Chinese chefs and kitchens, who use it in most stir-fry dishes as a stir-fry sauce and dim sum as a seasoning. A popular fusion twist from UK and European chefs is to use it in stock, gravy, cottage pies and marinades. It is universally complimentary to many ingredients. Its Gluten-Free Oyster Sauce has no added preservatives or MSG.
*Grand View Research