Keeping business more sweet than sour

wonton

Chinese restaurants in Oswego are still managing to scoop out a portion of the college market, despite the opening of a new competitor earlier this year.

"We have more business now than ever before," said James Tiam, owner of Hong Kong restaurant.

Tiam, who has owned Hong Kong for six years, said that business has increased between 10 and 20 percent in the last six months. He said roughly half of his business comes from college students.

Jason Shi, owner of Wonton House, said business has been very good since opening in April.

"Business has always been good for us because we’re so close to campus," Shi said.

Shi said over 90 percent of his business is from college students. He said his success is due to his ability to convince college students to choose Wonton over competitors.

"I graduated from Oswego," Shi said. "I know what college students want."

Shi said that Wonton House is quick, good and inexpensive, and that word is getting around in the college community.

"The key difference is that we offer delivery on campus in thirty minutes or less or it’s free," Shi said.

Wonton’s strategy is based on catering to the needs of college students. Shi said by offering a dollar menu he targets students who want food they can afford.

But Jerry Huang, owner of Food Chow City III, said he isn’t worried about the competition from other Chinese restaurants. He said most of his customers are locals who have been frequenting the restaurant for years. Huang added that college students only make up around 30 percent of his business.

"For a small city, we’ve got a lot of Chinese food available," Huang said. "I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve seen many Chinese restaurants come and go."

Because he doesn’t rely as heavily on the college market, Huang said he can focus less on prices and more on offering consistent, quality food to his customers.

"Every day we use fresh everything for our food," Huang said.

While all the owners agreed that Chinese food is becoming increasingly popular, their opinions differed on what matters most to the customers. Shi said speed, along with a good price, is essential to his customers. However, Huang said that the opposite is true for Food Chow City III customers.

"The most important thing in this business is the quality of the food," Huang said. "My customers know and appreciate the taste."

Tiam agrees with Food Chow City’s owner.

"For customers, its which one has a better price and taste," Tiam said.

Tiam said that his business is successful because it caters to both college students and locals in the city. He said that during the day, virtually all of his business comes from the city. However, around dinner time Tiam notices a switch and college students become the majority of his business.

Shi, of Wonton House, said that despite the competition his restaurant still serves the most college students, which is where the money is.

"I find what students want and I bring it to them," Shi said. "That’s why I’m here, to serve the college community."

Shi said his new business doesn’t plan on slowing down. In fact, he said he’s thinking about adding a whole new element in the coming months. Shi plans on opening another restaurant in the same building as Wonton that offers pizza and calzones.

Although the restaurants will occupy the same building, the help and phone numbers will be separate. Shi says he has not ruled out offering specialty pizzas or calzones that incorporate some items from Wonton House.

Despite this, Shi and other owners believe the pie is big enough for all of them because customers are split up between locals in the city and college students.

"I think there’s enough business to go around, no matter what," Shi said.