profile
Qi Song

MSc(MECH)

 

Founder and CEO
遇見小面 (Noodle Restaurant)

Qi's entrepreneurial story began long before he opened his first restaurant. Upon graduation from HKUST, Qi worked briefly in the IT sector but soon decided that this was not what he wanted out of life. He would much rather be his own boss, and to this end he decided to leave his job for a position at McDonald's in order to gain insight into how local chain restaurants operated. After a brief stint with McDonald's, he then moved on to Yum! Brands, Inc. to learn about site development. Armed with in-depth knowledge about the fast food industry, Qi and his wife, fellow HKUST alumna Yanling Luo, returned to Guangzhou in 2012 to open a Cantonese-styled tea restaurant.

Unfortunately for Qi, this venture turned out to be a disappointment as the restaurant suffered losses of RMB $10,000 each month. He did not give up, however, and transformed his restaurant to one that sold dumplings. With this change, profits quickly rose from RMB $10,000 in the first month to $30,000 in the next and then $50,000 in the month following. In 2014, Qi and Yanling opened their second dumpling restaurant but this venture soon failed due to a management crisis. Determined to succeed, their restaurant underwent yet another change from selling dumplings to making Chongqing-style noodles (xiao-mian). 

Thanks to endless hours spent on analysis and experimentation, Qi, Yanling and their team were able to standardize and perfect their noodle-making process. They also streamlined the order-taking and payment process by making these services available on WeChat. This revolutionary and scientific way of making noodles was well-received by investors – the restaurant received $2 million in angel funds before the end of the year. "Getting our first investor was like a dream," recalls Qi laughingly. "One day a customer came up to me and said he really liked our noodles, and would like to invest in our restaurant. Several days after, I woke up to a couple more zeros in the balance of my bank account."

As of autumn 2019, Qi and his team operate over 30 xiao-mian restaurants in the Greater Bay area. He does not plan to stop there, however, his goal is for his restaurant to become the top brand among Chongqing noodle (xiao-mian) restaurants. Preparations are also underway to expand their business to a total of 100 restaurants in 2020.