“All Day Kitchens has enabled us to provide customers a true taste of the China Live experience at home and beyond our immediate market, increasing order frequency, customer engagement, and sales.”–George Chen, China Live
When the renowned China Live opened in 2017, there had never been anything quite like it before in San Francisco: a 30,000 square foot, four-story, award-winning design space, serving market fresh Chinese cuisine with a daily/weekly changing menu.
By partnering with All Day Kitchens, China Live successfully extended its most popular dishes to diners across the vast Bay Area, without needing to invest in added space and saving incremental labor.
China Live is a Top 100 independent US restaurant by sales (#63 and #1 Chinese). China Live has won several awards, including Time Magazine’s “World’s Greatest Places” and Eater’s “Restaurant of the Year.” It’s been featured in media outlets such as Food & Wine, Bloomberg, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, NBC/ABC/CBS News, TimeOut, SCMP, and The San Francisco Chronicle, with more than 3 billion media impressions.
China Live’s strategic growth plans called for leveraging its brand recognition and reputation to expand geographic reach without increasing corresponding capital expenditure costs. Analyzing customer data, China Live determined that most of their diners were coming from 9+ miles away, well beyond the ~3-mile delivery radius and inconvenient for pick up.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, dine-in became severely constrained, underscoring the need for an innovative way to reach its customer base.
“Ultimately what was most important to us was that we could deliver the same quality of product in each new market. That’s where we started and at the end of the day. With extensive development and testing with VKC chefs, the quality of the food and experience coming out of each VKC location is consistent with what we’re doing at our flagship in San Francisco.”–George Chen, China Live
China Live has always been a resourceful innovator. Even before the pandemic hit, China Live had already grown its digital and social media footprint and explored alternative distribution channels, including the so-called “ghost kitchens.” Owner George Chen visited facilities and taste-tested meals from every available concept.
VKC clearly stood out from all other models and alternatives from both a financial and logistical perspective. Most importantly, their culinary team could ensure the same high standards demanded in China Live’s own kitchen. Working closely with VKC’s culinary team (formerly Chez Panisse, The French Laundry) in an extensive in-kitchen R&D process, George soon realized he had found a partner who cared about the quality of the diner experience just as much as he did. Even better, they could execute against it.
“Our partnership with All Day Kitchens has allowed us to leverage our popular brand and product offering to drive more daily transactions across a much greater geographic footprint. During these times, and in the future, selling beyond your four walls is critical.
Opening up stand-alone brick and mortar facilities are not only costly from a cap-ex standpoint, but they require significant working capital during construction, pre-opening and during ramp-up time as customers become familiar with a new location. Not to mention all the complexities and soft costs related to site selection, lease negotiation, legal, and permitting. All Day Kitchens offers a turnkey solution to location expansion that eliminates that cost and risk.
We work in perhaps the most competitive of industries. While we have developed quite a fan base and following, the All Day Kitchens partnership has helped keep our brand top of mind and generating more revenue from these additional markets.”– George Chen, China Live
In 2020, China Live became a distributed restaurant and 10x’ed their geographic reach by launching at Virtual Kitchen Co’s 10 Bay Area locations. The menu, called China Live Signatures, features a curated selection of the brand’s bestsellers. To-go and delivery revenue has increased 50% since launching with VKC. The COVID-19 pandemic makes this number particularly important – with no indoor or outdoor dining available during most of the past year, the revenue VKC brings in is an important percentage of overall business, adding incremental profit to their brick and mortar. It’s a hub and spoke model China Live will add to all it’s future expansions.
Equally as important as the incremental financial contributions, Virtual Kitchen Co has empowered China Live to bring their brand experience to a much broader customer base by helping to build and service relationships with diners in distant suburban regions far from the city of SF. That benefit is ground-breaking and lasting. As we look out at the uncertain landscape for restaurants in 2021, one thing’s for sure: China Live and VKC will continue to partner together to take advantage of everything a vastly expanded and changing geographic market has to offer.