Anyone who has visited one of Wowprime Group’s restaurants, like Tasty or Tokiya, will probably remember the friendliness of the waiters. But another crucial factor in the group’s consistent success is innovation. Over the past decade, Wowprime has developed a range of new brands from steak houses, French and Japanese restaurants, and hotpot outlets, to a recent variety of vegetarian restaurants and a chain of cafes, with the company assuming a solid position at the head of Taiwan’s catering industry. At a conference for investors at Taipei’s Confucius Temple earlier this year—before the company was listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange—chairman Steve Day wore traditional Chinese garb and discussed the relevance of Confucius’ The Analects for the company’s management strategy. The event created a sensation.
Common challenges faced by the normal run of companies in Taiwan’s service sector—the enormous turnover in manpower, the lack of innovation, and the challenges of thinking outside the box—have become strengths for Wowprime. But what has been the key to its success?
Established 19 years ago, Wowprime has created 11 brands in its catering empire. The latest, 12 Sabu, a hotpot outlet, was designed to provide inexpensive (less than NT$200) meals, and is currently running 20 outlets across Taiwan.
The 12 Sabu chain represents the most radical innovation for Wowprime in recent years, because they dared abandon previously established core competitive pricing at NT$800–1000 per meal.
In a 12 Sabu outlet, the only choice is hotpot, served at a counter with customers sitting on bar chairs. With its open kitchen design, diners can enjoy their meal while being able to watch the chefs at work. The soft green decor also helps people relax.
“Because Wowprime prices generally range from medium to high, the company required a ‘new brain’ approach to create a chain of inexpensive restaurants,” says Stanley Tsao, founder and president of 12 Sabu. The ‘new brain’ meant that Wowprime had to abandon old ways of thinking and operating, including the way they looked after their customers, the ingredients for the meals, and administration methods.
Tsao says that 12 Sabu promotes its restaurants as customers’ second kitchen, an approach designed to appeal to people who don’t cook at home, rather than trying to attract larger groups of friends or colleagues as other restaurants often tend to do.