Editor’s note: the GDToday team spent a day with several expats who are working and living in different cities of Guangdong and present how they are preparing for the Chinese New Year despite the back-and-forth Covid-19 pandemic through the ‘My Chinese New Year Style’ series.
In the eyes of the Portuguese businessman Dario Silva, it is a hot season of import and distribution. As the Chinese New Year drew near, many people would offer wine and olive oil to their friends as gifts.
In one day, he could have a meeting in Shenzhen in the morning, and the other one in Guangzhou at noon. After that, he would rush to Foshan, where the Portuguese restaurant Lusitano Bistro is located.
“There is a big opportunity in the market”
The restaurant opened by the end of 2019, around October. Speaking of the name of the bistro, Silva introduced, “Lusitano refers to a famous Portuguese horse breed, which is known for its power and can run extremely fast.” Based inside the golf club, his restaurant mainly targets golf players in Foshan. Moreover, there are a lot of consumers from all over China who like to spend the weekends inside the club.
Dario Silva came to China in 2008. In the beginning, he stayed in Shenzhen and was engaged in electronic import and export. Before 2015, he lived a standard foreigner’s life there: “I visited manufacturers to negotiate prices, and make sure that they keep the quality standards.”
In 2015, his cousin asked if he could help to open the port wine market in China. He tried a container of goods, which were sold very fast. He realized there is a big opportunity in the market and started to focus himself on importing and distributing port wine. Later on, his business touched into more Portuguese food including olive oil and cookies.
“We make the restaurant as Portuguese as possible”
“When you sell wine in China, you are just selling a product. When you have a restaurant, you are providing a full experience, you are teaching people how to pair the wine correctly, so they can get the better flavors from the food.”
Talking about why he chose to open the restaurant, Silva told GDToday that his team aim at making the bistro as much like Portugal as possible. This creates a whole environment where people are learning something about foreign culture.
Basically, the restaurant keeps a day-to-day minimum stock to ensure ingredients are fresh. Silva attributed it to China’s logistics, “China on this aspect is 10 years ahead of other countries”. He gives the following example: If you order something today online, tomorrow you receive it by express. “I think the logistics in China, are probably the most efficient in the world.”
Last year, due to the pandemic, the bistro was closed from January until May. After it was reopened, Silva lost part of his consumer base because some enterprise staff, international teachers and students could not come back. However, the business is still running as the restaurant is growing in the local Chinese community.
“GBA is the cherry on the cake to do business in China”
“In Shenzhen, you just look at the city in 2008 and you look at the city now, I think no words can describe it. It was a huge development for the city.” Having witnessed the change of the city over 13 years, Silva is amazed by the tremendous growth of people’s purchasing power.
When he first came to Shenzhen, it was mainly a manufacturing center. “While now you don't find any factories. Instead, there are some of the largest corporations in the world like Tencent, Huawei,” he said.
Silva regards the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area as one of the areas that developed the most. Aside from a lot of favorable business policies in GBA, the people here like to enjoy life. “They actually earn good wages. And they are willing to spend it on food, drinks, clothes and vacations.” He believes it’s the central point of business in China.
Next step, Silva is planning a Portuguese restaurant in Guangzhou. The location has already been defined in cooperation with Guangdong (China) Imported Food Association.
“Always a special feeling to be here surrounded by family during the CNY”
Silva’s family has recently expanded with the arrival of his second daughter. After finishing work in Guangzhou, he would go to Zhuhai to spend the holiday with his family. It is always a special feeling for him to stay here surrounded by family during the CNY.
His family like to keep the tradition at home: stay at home, cook together, watch the CCTV Spring Festival gala, eat dumplings and try to get the lucky coin hidden inside one of them, and go to the lower markets on the streets to support the people who, in Silva’s opinion, are putting so much effort into creating the real Spring Festival feeling.
Co-produced by GDToday and Southern Metropolis Daily
Reporter: Hannah Zhou, Wu Jialin, Lin Yaohua, Li Lin, Xie Qinfeng (Intern)
Editor: Keane Wong, Jerry Grey
Subtitles: Hannah Zhou, Wu Jialin, Xie Qinfeng (Intern)