U BO WO: CUSTOMER RELATIONS THE TRADITIONAL WAY
The U Bo Wo Chinese herbal tea shops are a family business, selling herbal brews, sweet soups and double-boiled soup made on the premises. The teashops already have many regular customers and U Bo Wo is happy to maintain its current business model and does not want to expand its business and marketing network too quickly. This is a small business that is simply dedicated to making good, healthy food that its customers trust and enjoy.
U Bo Wo owner and manager U Kin Man says her ambitions for the business remain unchanged since her family opened the original teashop selling homemade herbal brews and sweet soups nearly three decades ago, in premises opposite the Zhulin Temple in Estrada de Coelho do Amaral. The family owned the space U Bo Wo occupies and initially invested MOP6, 000 in the business. The teashop was respectfully named after an ancestor, a Qing Dynasty scholar.
About 17 years ago, building on the success of the herbal teas and sweet soups it sold, the teashop began offering double-boiled soup – limited to a few types and sold only during certain hours of the day. Ms U says quality is more important than quantity. The number of servings of double-boiled soup sold each day is limited, to guarantee quality.
Ms U tries to stick to plain and simple recipes for soup, which require little salt, giving prominence to the original taste of the ingredients, and which preserve the nutrients within.
Preparing herbal teas and double-boiled soup is a never-ending process. Ms U says everything is done in the traditional way, from soaking the herbs to regulating the cooking flame to presenting the results. She does not want to follow methods used by some teashops in Hong Kong, such as brewing herbal tea in large containers over a strong flame. Only the traditional ways achieve the best results, Ms U says.
Such was the popularity of U Bo Wo products that about three years ago the family opened a branch in the Nam Van district. The teashop there sells food and drink for consumption on or off the premises. The family intends to keep the business small and has turned down proposals to increase the number of outlets for its products. Larger enterprises and restaurants have on several occasions expressed an interest in acquiring U Bo Wo recipes and learning its preparation techniques. But all such approaches have been rebuffed. Ms U says the family sticks to a simple principle: “Neither to have too many or too much, but to be satisfied with what we have.”
Ms U believes U Bo Wo fare is well received by its customers because it is made with love, just like home cooking. Dealing with familiar customers face to face is also satisfying, she says and this is the reason why U Bo Wo maintains the same principle and does not want to expand its business.
Ms U says she once thought about opening a third teashop, but dropped the idea because of the difficulty she would have had staffing it. So U Bo Wo will keep concentrating on serving herbal teas and double-boiled soups in its present teashops. Her attitude makes U Bo Wo more than just a way of earning money. It makes the business a means of maintaining virtuous relationships between the family that runs it and the customers that patronise it.