Charlie Zhang, Founder of Bowltiful.

Why Bowltiful brought its Lanzhou roots to Australia

Its aim is to provide a halal menu that tastes like home for the Chinese Muslim community.

After moving to Melbourne from Lanzhou during his high school days, Charlie Zhang, the Founder of Bowltiful found it hard to find places to eat that cater to Chinese Muslims. It was even harder to find halal meals that taste like home.

So in 2019, Charlie opened the first Bowltiful restaurant, determined to introduce their culture and provide an expansive menu not just for Chinese Muslims but for everyone to enjoy. Now, Charlie has set his eyes on expanding not just in Melbourne but in locations such as Indonesia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Canada, and the  United Kingdom. 

In a quick interview with QSR Media, Charlie talked about what’s new with Bowltiful, their recently opened third branch in Melbourne and their plans for the future.

QSR Media: Could you tell us about Bowltiful? What is its history and when was it conceptualized? 

Charlie Zhang: After moving from Gansu, Lanzhou to Melbourne in high school, I wanted to share the heart of Lanzhou culture with Melbournians through family recipes. I was striving to introduce our culture to the wider population as there weren’t many places where I could find a 100% halal menu with meals that felt like home. From there I decided to open  Bowltiful in 2019. 

You've recently opened your largest store in Melbourne. Aside from being the largest,  what does this store offer? 

As we continue to expand throughout Melbourne, our main goal has been to follow the ever-growing trends in the CBD. Demand for new/diverse Asian cuisine within Melbourne is partly due to the expansion of what is traditionally Chinatown, into new areas including Elizabeth Street, Russell Street and Swanston Street. Other than the ability to seat more patrons, our new Swanston Street store has an exclusive menu item,  spicy, flame-grilled lamb skewers.  

What's new with Bowltiful? 

At the moment our team is focussed on creating an expansive menu that not only caters to the Chinese Muslim community with a 100% certified Halal focus, but we hope to create further additions to the menu that ensures there are more options for the vegetarian and vegan community. Our restaurant is constantly striving to be an inclusive space where everyone can enjoy a big and delicious bowl of Lanzhou noodles.  

What strategic direction is Bowltiful headed? 

It has always been a dream of mine to cement Bowltiful’s footprint as the premier authentic Lanzhou noodle restaurant in Australia. Further to this, we hope to franchise overseas in locations such as Indonesia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Canada, and the  United Kingdom. Overall, our strategy is and has always been to share our love of traditional Lanzhou food.

What are the top 3 challenges you identified in Australia's QSR industry and how are you responding/will respond to them?

Owning a business always comes with its challenges, however, I would have to say that  the most prominent within the industry are:  

  • Staffing shortages: We make it a point to hire new staff frequently and provide ongoing training for skill improvement, consistency is key in our store so upgraded knowledge is imperative. 
  • Fluctuating rental prices:  Regarding rent, locations with constant foot traffic continue to boost business organically and therefore, the location will eventually make the rent worth it for our business.  
  • The rise in costs for goods and services: To ensure our quality and environmental footprint do not waver, we have made efforts to negotiate and review the cost of our ingredients with our local suppliers. We also love to ensure each and every one that walks through the door is a return customer, community is the backbone of our business and what makes it all worth it. 

What do you have in store for this year? What is your goal before the end of the year? 

Currently, we are working towards an exciting new menu and promotion to thank our loyal customers. We have also made plans to set up shop in Chadstone this year in the hopes to continue sharing the authentic and delicious Lanzhou menu items. With dates still to be confirmed we have had conversations with our overseas potential licensees, in the hopes to grow and share the Bowltiful experience with more of the world.

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