With grits and guts, female restaurateur inspires with a dash of Ginger
The road to being a successful female entrepreneur – be it a restaurant owner, a designer, a gallery owner or a retailer – can be bumpy. In this series, "She Power," we talk to women from different countries and different backgrounds about their experiences and stories of setting up businesses in Shanghai. One thing these amazing women all have in common – they all yearn to build a brand that does good, that gives purpose and fulfillment, and even a palpable sense of joy.
The food and beverage business has been viewed as a predominantly male domain in China for many years but inspirational women such as long-time restaurateur Betty Ng have combined their Asian heritage with abundant creativity and passion to turn dreams into reality.
Since 2005, Ng's beloved restaurant Ginger has become an institution, just like its creator, known for consistently delivering excellence in cuisine, service and vision.
Q: Before we talk about Ginger – your modern Asian bistro – would you please introduce yourself?
I am Singaporean and the owner of Ginger Modern Asian Bistro on Xingguo Road. I first came to China in 1987 to work in hospitality in Beijing. After several years of living in Hong Kong and Beijing, I moved to Tokyo and changed my career path toward culinary arts.
It was there where I graduated with a Grand Diploma from Le Cordon Bleu and helped many leading magazines in food and table styling. I also did consulting for big restaurant groups to refine their menus, interiors and table styling.
Q: Why, after living in Shanghai for a few years, did you decide to strike out on your own to build up a restaurant business?
Opening and running a restaurant business has always been my dream. In central Tokyo, restaurant rentals are very high and payable one year in advance. This is not efficient use of capital, so opening in Tokyo was not on my menu. But when moving to Shanghai in 2003, I knew I could do it – and so I did.
I opened the first Ginger on Fuxing Road W. In 2005, a café serving healthy international cuisine. I later expanded my brand to Xintiandi, Tian Zi Fang and Sinan Road, trending destinations at the time. When I moved Ginger to our current location, I decided to reconsolidate and narrow the cooking to Ginger's competence in Asian cuisines.
Q: What makes Shanghai's business environment so remarkable?
Shanghai has a very sophisticated and discerning crowd and very beautiful places to run restaurants. Shanghai people have style. They travel the world and they do appreciate the good things in life. Food is one of these good things.
Q: What are you trying to bring to the local community?
I have always strived to provide a beautiful, comfortable place with interesting décor and atmosphere. A place one looks forward to going to eat healthy and delicious food, be it for lunch, for an afternoon chill or for a cozy dinner. I have also always provided a good place to work for my staff, where they feel appreciated.
Q: What are the biggest challenges setting up a business here? How do you stay motivated?
The biggest challenge is to break even in Shanghai's very competitive business environment. You have to persist.
Q: What was the moment that made you most proud?
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of my restaurant. Soon it will be 20.
Q: What are you working on?
Actually, I permanently work on improving my restaurant, whether it is with new dishes, new designs, improved work flow, higher efficiency or reduced waste.
Q: Who's the female role model inspiring you?
Tina Turner. Everything she achieved was of her own making. She had enormous grit and persistence. She actually belongs in the same category of self-made woman.
Q: Do you have any advice for women entrepreneurs?
Believe in yourself, don't get distracted, aim for the stars and allow no-one to break your stride.