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Singapore’s Richest Man Made His Fortune With A Chain Of Hot Pot Restaurants

Because of the rising popularity of hot pot restaurants around the world, Zhang Yong, the founder of Haidilao, has become the richest man in Singapore, which is not an accomplishment that can be taken lightly. Zhang has accomplished something that is not easy to do: he has become a billionaire while working in the restaurant industry as a chef and restaurant owner.



Because of the rising popularity of hot pot restaurants around the world, Zhang Yong, the founder of Haidilao, has become the wealthiest person in Singapore, which is not an accomplishment that can be taken lightly. Half of the population in Singapore belongs to the top 10% wealthiest people in the world. To begin, in the event that you are perplexed about what a hot pot is and how it is prepared, a hot pot is a Chinese cooking method that is prepared with a pot of soup stock that is simmered at the dining table and contains a variety of Asian ingredients. Since its humble beginnings as a quick and inexpensive meal for peasants squatting by the river to cook ox tripe and other offal, hot pot has evolved into a cultural phenomenon that is enjoyed by people all over the world.

Also, becoming a billionaire as a chef or restaurant owner is a very difficult feat, but Zhang has managed to accomplish this feat despite the difficulty. The hot pot restaurants that are part of the Zhang’s Haidilao chain have conquered the world. At the end of 2018, the Haidilao Hot Pot franchise had a total of 466 locations across more than one hundred cities, one of which was located in Los Angeles.

Zhang, now 49 years old, was born into a poor family in the countryside of Jianyan, Sichuan, China, in the year 1970. Today, Zhang has a net worth of $13.9 billion, and his hot pot empire includes restaurants in the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

MARK RALSTON/AFP, available here courtesy of Getty Images

Zhang educated himself throughout his teenage years by reading books that he borrowed from the library. Reading became his escape from the social awkwardness he felt inside. When he was around girls, he was awkward and lacked self-confidence. Zhang came to the conclusion that he was “ignorant and dull” after reading books written by authors from countries other than China. He did not complete high school but did get his diploma from a vocational school instead. Six years of his life were spent working at a local tractor factory. At the age of 19, he made the decision to eat his lunch outside of the factory’s cafeteria, in one of the nearby restaurants. It was his first time eating out, and the establishment he chose to dine in specialized in hot pots. Zhang felt that the wait staff was impolite, and she did not enjoy the food. After that meal, he was convinced of the importance of providing good service to customers.


After getting into an argument with his supervisor over being denied a company apartment that he wanted to share with his then-fiancée Shu Ping in 1994, he decided to quit his job as a welder in a tractor factory that paid him $14 per month. Prior to this, he had been making $14 per month. He opened a small hot pot restaurant with only four tables by taking out a loan of $1,500 from Shu as well as from his friends Shi Yonghong and Li Haiyan. He guaranteed to his fiancée and his close friends that the money they put into him would produce a return of at least $21,500 within the next five years, and if it didn’t, he would reimburse them.

Zhang was successful in luring customers to his establishment by providing them with attractive discounts and complimentary snacks. Because he was not particularly skilled at preparing hot pot, he decided to instead concentrate on providing outstanding service to his patrons. After only a few short months of operation, Haidilao had already become Jianyang’s most popular destination for hot pot. His second establishment opened up and was very successful. The restaurant Haidilao Hot Pot is well-known for both the spiciness of its dishes and the quality of its customer service.

In the year 1998, a good friend of mine suggested that we form a business partnership in order to open a third Haidilao in Xi’an. The failure of that restaurant was attributed by Zhang to the fact that he wasn’t running it himself, and it occurred within the first six months of business. Since that time, he has never worked with anyone else in a collaborative capacity.

Zhang’s sole motivation for launching his hot pot empire was a desire to lift himself out of the abject poverty that he had lived in throughout his youth. When he was a child, he had a friend who, after his father abandoned the family, was killed to death by the friend’s own mother. She couldn’t make ends meet. After she had killed her son, she ended her own life by hanging herself. Zhang has been quoted as saying, “Changing your life with your own two hands is Haidilao’s mission, vision, and values.” The phrase “scooping for treasure at the bottom of the sea” translates to “haidilao” when spoken in Mandarin.


The stellar reputation earned by Haidilao’s customer service helped fuel the company’s rapid growth. The restaurant provided complimentary massage chairs, manicures, and services to clean and polish leather shoes for patrons while they waited. Guests are kept entertained through a variety of activities, including performances and having chefs bring food directly to their tables. Every three days, Haidilao debuts a brand-new dining establishment. It takes each restaurant only one to three months to reach financial stability. The success of his chain of hot pot restaurants is evidence that people from other cultures are interested in Chinese cuisine and culture.

The staff at Haidilao is also a pretty upbeat and positive bunch. The majority of Haidilao’s workforce in China consists of young people from rural towns who have a low level of education. They are the same age group that Zhang had been when he was in his younger years. The workforce is given equal pay and opportunities for advancement within the company. The salaries that employees receive are significantly higher than the norm for the industry. The current CEO of the company used to work in the restaurant industry.

Zhang’s loan of $1,500 turned out to be a great investment, which has turned all three of Zhang’s friends, who pooled their resources to invest in his dream, into billionaires. Zhang’s friends scraped their money together to invest in his dream. When Haidilao began trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange for the first time in September 2018, Zhang’s wealth shot through the roof. Soon after that, he uprooted his life and moved to Singapore, where he eventually obtained Singaporean citizenship and a Singaporean passport. The initial public offering resulted in the company receiving $963 million. Haidilao had $17 billion in sales last year

After moving to Singapore, Zhang amassed an incredible net worth of over $13 billion, which enabled him to dethrone Robert and Phillip Ng, who were real estate tycoons at the time. Zhang is now the richest person in Singapore. The total wealth of the Ng family is estimated to be $10.1 billion.

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