10 Facts About The Founder Of Haidilao Who Became S’pore’s Richest Man Recently

Image: Forbes

When you hear the name Haidiao, you’re probably thinking of delicious hot pots with scrumptious hand-pulled noodles.

They’re also probably the only restaurant in Singapore that offers free massages and manicures to customers.

But what you may not know, is that its founder recently became the richest man in Singapore.

Here are 10 facts about the Haidilao founder you’re probably dying to know.

1. He is now the top of Forbes’ Singapore Rich List

The Chinese businessman is now the richest man in Singapore.

He recently overtook Far East’s Ng brothers to top Forbes list of Singapore’s richest, with a net worth of S$19 billion dollars.

His wealth saw a 74 per cent increase in the last three months. This is likely due to the 60 per cent jump in revenue for Haidilao.

The company’s market value is now S$29 billion.

2. He was once a factory worker earning S$19 a month

While Yong has amassed a huge fortune, the Haidilao founder had humble beginnings.

He dropped out of high school and worked as a welder in a tractor factory and was earning just 93 yuan (S$19) a month at the time. He eventually quit his job after a dispute and later founded the Chinese hotpot chain.

His salary has certainly increased since then.

3. He first ate at a restaurant at the age of 19

According to Vulcan Post, Yong had his first meal in a restaurant when he was 19.

Ah Hock loved Michelle and asked her, ‘Ai stead mai?’ in the 90s. Today, he tried again but would it work? Prepare some tissue paper and watch their love story here:

He had a horrible first dining experience because the staff was rude and the hotpot meal was mediocre.

This is why he values good customer service and is determined to provide a pleasant dining experience for all his customers.

“I personally made sure that any guest who came through my door would return,”, he said.

4. Yong is now a Singapore citizen

The restauranteur was born and grew up in rural Sichuan province. He was previously featured on the China rich list last year and has since become a naturalised Singapore citizen.

5. His wife is also a billionaire

Shu Ping, his wife, was previously 14th on Forbes list of Singapore’s richest with a fortune of S$2.5 billion.

She is the director and one of the three co-founders of Haidilao. She also manages the chain’s strategic development.

Like her husband, she is now a Singapore citizen.

6. He started Haidilao with less than S$2k

Yong founded the company with his wife and another couple. But all four founders had little capital at the start.

“I was penniless, so the others were the real investors. The entire investment was less than 10,000 yuan (~S$2,011)”, he said in an interview with the Economic Observer

Yong invested all the money they had in the restaurant, and Haidilao became the most popular hotpot restaurant in the Jianyang district within a few months.

7. He gives outstanding Haidilao employees free apartments

Yong has an employee-centric philosophy and even believes that “employees are more important than customers”.

He ensures that his employees are well taken care of by offering attractive pay incentives and welfare packages.

According to LinkedIn Pulse, outstanding employees sometimes even receive free apartments, parental subsidies, children’s educational allowances, and other benefits.

There are also referral incentives and many employees would refer their family and friends to work at the hotpot chain.

8. He started a university to train its restaurant managers

In 2010, Haidilao established its own university to systematically train its restaurant managers.

Most of the teachers are experienced restaurant managers. There is also a system of apprenticeship for staff to learn from senior employees.

9. He opens a new restaurant every three days

Due to their immense success, Haidilao has been opening a new restaurant every three days, Yong said in a Forbes interview.

He attributed this massive expansion to their popularity with foreigners. “Much of our history and customs can be learned through food,” he said.

“It’s better to scale fast and be everywhere instead of having a single towering presence”, he added.

10. He only promotes from within

Haidilao has a system of internal promotion because of Yong’s belief in meritocracy. Because of his own experiences as a low-wage factory worker, Yong empathizes with young workers similar backgrounds.

Thus, Haidilao’s employment strategies were shaped by Yong’s belief in providing opportunities for social mobility.

He emphasized that “the core philosophy of Haidilao is that you can change your life using your own hands”.

Unlike many other tycoons who had their fortune handed to them, Yong’s life is a genuine rags-to-riches story.

Starting out as a low-wage factory worker, Yong is now worth S$19 billion and the richest man in Singapore.

Yong’s life illustrates how anyone can achieve success with ardent ambition and the right philosophy.

And yet here I am, still writing articles and drooling over his success.