Lessons From My Haidilao Experience

On the first day of 2023, my family dine at the Haidilao restaurant at a place near us.

While I enjoyed the food, I was even more impressed by their service standards. I kept noticing how they made me feel as a customer. I also wonder how they can be sustainable as a global business, given the way that they spoil their customers with freebies and accede to their whims and fancies.

A quick google search will show you all the value added services that they provide before, during and even after you dine at Haidilao. From a cosy waiting area, free and free-flow ice cream and beverages, freedom to bring our own drinks, to all the free-flow sauces, condiments, side dishes in the restaurant, to the very dedicated and courteous service of their staff, I felt pampered and honored as their customers, and I actually felt the hospitability from the restaurant. Whether this hospitability is engineered or not is irrelevant, the important thing is that I was impressed by it, and would likely come back to them on another occasion.

A few highlight from my experience, that I’d like to adapt to my tuition business


They have free flow condiment, free flow drinks, free flow ice cream, and free flow side dish. I must confess that I love their side dish so much that I must have taken four to five servings. The only thing they do not provide on free-flow is their main hotpot ingredient. As a customer, I felt carefree. I did not have to consider my every purchase decisions, no need to count my pennies.

My wife commented that it is because Haidilao charges a premium price for their hotpot ingredient, and thta is why they can afford to give many freebies. So I was expected a bomb in the final bill, but the total damage turn out to be quite acceptable.

Instead of charging a very low fee, and charging material fees, admin fees, etc, I can charge a slightly higher fees but include everything, even offering free extra lessons when my students need it. It makes it hassle free for my customer. I will charge one fee only – the fee to settle your child’s learning of maths.


Being all-inclusive is more of the matter of package design. The next level is their staff’s attitude. They were courteous, quite cheerful, and patient in explaining what they provide and did not provide. I intentionally asked a staff, what is the minimum amount I can spend there, and she promptly answered me, that there is no minimum spending.

If I can allow no minimum spending, what will it look like in a tuition business? It might mean that any student can sign up for one lesson of consultation with me. There is no need to go for a long term commitment, with big ticket spending.

From what I see in the restaurant, most tables are big groups of at least 4 in a group. Obviously Haidilao’s no-minimum-spending policy ends up attracting big spenders. It is necessary for the business to thrive.

How do I give the experience that everyone is free to attend even one lesson only, yet it will eventually lead to students signing up for more classes?


As we were leaving the restaurant, we saw a family taking away a big bag of ice cream, fruits and beverages. I am sure Haidilao allows that as part of their customer experience, yet I believe they are also betting that most people will not do that, otherwise it will be a poor decision.

When we are generous as a business, there will be people who take advantage. It is to be expected. How do we protect ourselves as a business and yet do it gracefully? For example, if we start entertaining personal requests from parents to do this and that for their children, will it encourage other parents to do likewise?


I like Haidilao’s condiment bars. They have many kinds of sauces and ingredients for me to mix and match, to create our own favorite concoction. There are also some standard recipes to guide clueless diners to prepare their own mix. I think, that creates a kind of fun in being co-creative.

I can allow my students to custom make their learning journey through a easy-to-use learning plan. Not everything has to be fixed by me. When students are given the freedom to co-create, it gives them room for experimentation and have fun. It also gives them ownership, as they now think, “this is the learning plan that I designed. The next time I can perhaps try something different. Who knows, it may be better?”


I observed how excited my wife and my kids were before they even visited Haidilao. They found several videos of how people used some secret code words to unlock small freebies from the staff. They tried and got most of these stuff, and the experience was a lot of fun, even when the freebies were just simple stuffs. Yet the undeniable fact is that Haidilao enjoys free publicity and buzz by offering these delightful experiences. It is compelling to try it, just to see whether it really works.

How do I create surprising elements so that parents and students will talk about it to their friends? It should be something that get people to say, “Are you sure? Wow, I really want to try it and see if it is like what you said.”


After this dining experience, Haidilao has really got my attention. I’ll probably go find some books to understand more about their business philosophy. If you have any insights, please do feel free to leave a comment.


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