GUANGZHOU, June 17 (Xinhua) — After close to four months of waiting, Dario Silva, a Portuguese who has been in China for 12 years, reopened his restaurant in Foshan City, south China’s Guangdong Province, after COVID-19 tapered off in the province.
In 2019, Silva opened Lusitano Bistro, a Portuguese restaurant, after he was engaged in importing Portuguese products for years. It was his first attempt to bring authentic Portuguese flavors to Chinese consumers.
Back in 2008, Silva first came to China in pursuit of business opportunities. After working in the export trade in Shenzhen, a coastal economic powerhouse in southern China, for seven years, he got together a crowd of Chinese business partners who were attracted both by his sense of humor and port wines, a prestigious specialty in Portugal.
Silva said that as the Chinese market further opens, people’s demand for foreign goods has increased dramatically. He began to spot a gap in the Chinese market, where Portuguese products were then barely seen.
In 2015, Silva made his first attempt at importing a batch of port wine, which was then snapped up by his Chinese business partners. In the first year, Silva sold a total of 14,000 bottles of wine, with the sales volume reaching 50,000 euros (about 56,260 U.S. dollars).
High-quality and authentic wines granted Silva a name in the market. He then succeeded in bringing more Portuguese products, like mineral water, biscuits and olive oil, to the Chinese market.
The Portuguese owes his expanding business to a more open market environment. “The Chinese market is appealing and friendly for foreigners to do business in recent years,” Silva said.
In 2019, Silva exported Portuguese products worth 63 million yuan (about 8.9 million U.S. dollars) to China, half of which were consumed in Guangdong.
Even though more and more Portuguese have come to China, Silva found it difficult to find an authentic Portuguese restaurant. To taste the flavors from back home, he had been thinking of opening a Portuguese restaurant together with his partner.
At the end of 2018, China and Portugal signed a memorandum of understanding related to the Belt and Road Initiative, which allows more Portuguese agricultural products such as pork and fresh grapes to enter the Chinese market.
Last September, Lusitano Bistro opened, with everything from napkin holders, cutlery to glassware designed in the Portuguese style.
Silva said most of the ingredients are imported from Portugal, in an effort to bring authentic Portuguese flavors to Chinese and other nationals living in the city.
“Thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, the transport time of olive oil, cookies and wines from Portugal to China has decreased from 60 days to around 35 days,” said Silva. “More foreign investors like me are benefiting from China’s open economy and Chinese people’s openness to experience exotic tastes.”
An average of 40 people come to the restaurant to dine each day, and the number can top 120 in the peak season, according to Silva.
Although the restaurant was subject to a temporary suspension due to COVID-19, Silva said he was confident in resuming operations, with effective anti-virus measures taken in China.
Since the reopening, the restaurant has seen a rising number of customers, with an average of 30 each day. To keep everyone safe, the bistro keeps records of customers, checks their temperature and provides free masks.
Silva is currently negotiating two new locations in the cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
“I believe within the next couple of years, we will be able to deliver Portuguese food in all main cities in Guangdong and then start to expand into other provinces,” he said. Enditem