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Tapping Hunan Restaurant's Potential

Editor:Sharon Lee
Updated:2012/12/25 15:02:22
About Hunan Restaurant:

1631 Fourth St. S.W., in Willowbrook Plaza.

Phone: 641-423-9099.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
Buffet lunch $6.49, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Buffet dinner $8.49, 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Seniors 65 or over,

Monday lunch $4.99, Monday dinner $6.99.

Gift certificates and party room available.

MASON CITY - After scouting out other sites and towns, it took Keqiang Yang one day in November to decide to buy Hunan restaurant in Willowbrook Plaza.

Having grown up in Chinese restaurants, Keqiang looked around the restaurant and spoke to customers. He thought the restaurant was nice and had potential, and he liked Mason City. So he went into partnership with his father, Bill Yang, and started working in Hunan Dec. 1.

From Chicago, he saw the restaurant was for sale and "has good customers and good reviews in this town."

"So my family decided to drive here to check it out," he said. "We did look at a couple other restaurants in Minnesota on the same road trip. But we all liked Hunan's atmosphere and the previous owners.

"My parents and I all see a potential in this restaurant. So we decided to move to Mason City."

It's a family affair, with his sister, Yami, providing support for the transition, and his parents, who have two restaurants elsewhere, working in the back. They have been in the business some 20 years. Yami and Keqiang run the front.

They plan to paint the walls and refinish the wainscoting during Christmas break.

Before adding employees, Keqiang wants to see how the business goes. By the end of the month they want to get one more person and are trying to hire someone who can speak Mandarin, Yami said.

Customer service is high on the list of things to do along with listening to customers' wishes for food changes.

While tweaking some recipes, getting returning customers means using the same recipes for a majority of the dishes. They will be slowly making small changes - not major changes - because customers are used to the menu.

Hunan will continue to offer a buffet and prices will not be changed, said Yami, but there now is a 50-cent charge for tea, which used to be free. She said most customers have been OK with that.

For the buffet, there will be more meat and seafood dishes for dinner. The recipe for crab Rangoon is new, with cream cheese added to the filling. Other dishes such as coconut shrimp, happy family and seafood delight will have subtle changes.

The same selection is available for carryout.

Mild or spicy depends on what the customer wants. Most people want dishes just a little spicy, said Yami. For more spicy dishes, customers can add peppers or hot pepper oil.

With the "buffet to go," customers can get a box and choose whatever they like. Office workers do this a lot for lunch, Yami said.

For the buffet dishes, the Yangs will keep popular choices.

Keqiang, 21, is a community college graduate and Yami, 23, has a degree in international business management from the University of Illinois, Urbana. She is helping with the start for the first two months, probably leaving by February, as she wants to try another occupation.
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