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Guest Blog – Xiaona’s Story of The Green Tea Restaurant, West Didsbury

October 6, 2010


The Green Tea Interior - BEFORE...

The Green Tea Interior - BEFORE...


“I’ve known Jenny for nearly 16 years. We are always good friends no matter where we are or what we do. At the beginning of 2008, after a drama with her previous business partner, Jenny decided to open her own restaurant in West Didsbury. At that time I was still working as a Quantity Surveyor in Berkshire. When she told me the exciting news, I was so happy for her. I knew it was her dream and it meant a lot to her. It was very tough start for her as the place she chose had not been  a restaurant before. It needed to be refurbished and even needed a new kitchen.

Jenny called me every other week to update the progress and we also talked about the ideas for interior design and name choices for the restaurant. It was not easy to name a restaurant. The name should easy to remember. Not too old fashioned and related to our Chinese culture. Different to other Chinese restaurants and take-away shops. “China Palace”. “Blue Moon”; “Ben Xi” (our hometown);” Little China”… We listed all the names we could think of but still couldn’t find any we both liked.

Jenny called me one day: “What do you think about Panda Express?” I said: “Oh no, that sounds like a Chinese take –away van.” We both laughed. Just in that minute, there was an idea which suddenly popped up in my head: “How about Green Tea?” Jenny immediately replied: “That is a nice name, I like it.” We both agreed finally and the restaurant finally got the name –Green Tea Restaurant.

8th of August, 2008 was the Beijing Olympic’s Opening Day. It was also a significant day to all the Chinese people as number 8 is a lucky number in China. Jenny chose the same day for Green Tea Restaurant’s opening day. I visited Jenny few times after the restaurant opened – decorating the restaurant for Christmas was my favourite part.

A few months later, I wanted to have a bit more adventure in my life and so I decided to move to Manchester to join Green Tea and at the same time, set up my own business – Pisces Events.

Jenny and I always support each other. I help her running the restaurant and she supported me in starting my own business. My role in the restaurant is in charge of the front house, taking orders, serving food, making sure every customer is happy with the food, and passing  the feedback to the kitchen. Jenny’s role is in charge of the kitchen, making sure every single dish is freshly cooked and served on time. Running a restaurant is very different to what I did before. I have to admit, I didn’t really like it at the beginning. I worked really hard to achieved my Master’s Degree in Construction Management and working in a restaurant was never a plan in my life.

But, after a few months hard work in the restaurant, I started to realised I was learning so much more, and using this new knowledge with everything I had learnt from University such as project management, time management, marketing etc. I really enjoy customer service. I love talking to the customers and telling them more about our food, our story and Chinese culture. We’ve received really good feedback and a big smile from the customers will totally complete your day and make you feel all the hard work is 100% worth it!

As an event planner, I assisted Jenny organize a few special events in the Restaurant –  food tasting nights, a Christmas night for the girls, Mandarin club, Chinese cooking classes, Dim Sum weekend, Chinese new year fancy dress party and our “Taste of China” trip to Beijing. All the events went very well.

At the beginning of 2010, we received a phone call from One Potato Two potato TV production company. They told us that we had been nominated for Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant 2010. It was a great news for us. We were totally thrilled. The interviews and filming all went very well, and we did our very best.  It was a significant day in the restaurant’s history. Unfortunately, we didn’t get through to the second stage as the competition was very high. However, we still really appreciate the memorable experience and the great opportunity.

Time flew, and summer time 2010 was suddenly here. The restaurant was getting quiet during the week, and at the same time one of our kitchen assistant left us. We start to worried about restaurant‘s future. At that time, I decided to slow down my own business and make the restaurant my priority. Jenny and I both didn’t want to see the restaurant going down hill. We tried really hard to make it work. We reviewed all the details in the restaurant from the kitchen to the front house to see if there was anything we need to improve. We found out there was a lack of communication in the kitchen. The trainee kitchen assistant and the head chef were hardly talking to each other, and we identified that as a big problem. Come on guys, we thought, we need to work together for our own sake, we don’t need kitchen politics, we need to support each other. I was a trainee before.  I know what it feels like. You’re willing to learn, but if no one is keen to lead you, there is no way you can improve. We realised how important communication and team work are in the restaurant, so we decide to have meeting with all the staff every week to the issues and any problems.

We also like to build up our net work with other professionals. After a meeting  with the We Are Life team, (the design side of Didsbury Life), we realised we need to improve the atmosphere in the restaurant. It was very traditionally Chinese in style, and we also needed to review our menu as it was too big. Our special dishes were not standing out and it was not fair on the kitchen staff.

We surprised ourselves by how quickly we made the decision to have a renovation, not only for the restaurant, but also the logo, the menu, the website. The whole look would be totally different. We worked closely with the We Are Life team and the Moregeous team. We all tried really hard to get the project finished for West Fest, but things never go according to plan!


Green Tea Restaurant - DURING

Green Tea Restaurant - DURING


We realised it was going to take a bit more time than we thought, as we discovered a window which had to replaced due to dry rot, and a wholesale replacement of the enormous front window. So, the opening time was slightly delayed, but after four weeks hard work and team effort, we finally made it.

The restaurant look fabulous. It’s been an incredible transformation! The menu looks much better than before too. Simple and easy to read. The guilt free menu was my idea as I was on a diet and I totally understood how difficult it is to eat out when you on diet. You want to watch what you eat but you can hardly find anything you can eat on the menu. I decided to create a healthy option menu and worked with Michael Bach, my personal trainer, looking at the ingredients and cooking methods.

The new Green Tea Restaurant has been open for three weeks now, and we have been very busy since re-opening. We have received a lot of lovely messages and wishes from our friends and customers, which we all really appreciate. We will still concentrate on what we need to do to achieve our big ambitions, which include writing a Green Tea cooking book, and opening  Green Tea Restaurant 2, 3…


Green Tea Restaurant - AFTER

Green Tea Restaurant - AFTER


We are looking forward to a very bright future!”

Xiaona Liu, Green Tea Restaurant, 222 Burton Road, West Didsbury

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2010 7:05 am

    It’s a lovely story and I’m very proud to have been part of it x

  2. October 7, 2010 8:47 am

    I love hearing the tales of independent businesses – endeavour triumphs! Well done – and I’m looking forward to visiting (on your lovely shiny chairs 😉 )

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