The Chinese/ Japanese new restaurant queueing phenomenon in the Bay Area, and possibily other cities?

In the last few years, some pretty well known Chinese / Japanese chain restaurants/ eateries opened in the Bay Area- Din Tai Fung, Ippudo, Meet Fresh, 85C. Chef Hung’s is coming possibly next week. Chick and Tea is a local shop selling Taiwanese food. All of them attracted enormous queues when they first opened, and some still did after a few months of operations. I don’t know if its a phenomenon unique to Chinese / Japanese chain restaurants but it certain seems quite prevalent for this group.

What do you think is the reason behind the oftentimes absurd queues? I have my own theories but I am curious what others think. (And yes, I have been guilty of writing about some of them before they opened, joining in the high level of public interest. Though I rarely queue for a variety of reasons.)

I just asked my dining partner, she attributes the insane lines to social media.

I see absurdly long lines all the heck over the place in San Francisco–not just Chinese/Japanese new restaurants. I see it more as a phenomenon of youth–for some inexplicable reason, young people seem a lot more willing to stand in line at some hot spot. I guess it’s the lure of newness, or something like that.

Me, when I hear about a new place opening up, I think “that’s nice–if it’s still there in 5 or 10 years maybe I’ll check it out.”

An hour goes by quickly when you’ve got a smartphone. And what better time to write Hungry Onion posts? :slight_smile: I’m not sure this is an uniquely Asian phenomenon— Krispy Kreme, bolstered by free doughnuts and good marketing, had huge opening queues in the northeast 'burbs about 20 years ago.

The quality brought by some of these chains justifies the lines. However, 85C isn’t that good, so I think it says more about the lack of quality in that style of bakery in the Bay Area.

When Pollo Campero opened its first Bay Area location in the Mission, there were long queues of Latino families. Quite a different scene than the tourists at Tartine and groups of young hungover people waiting for weekend brunch throughout SF.

As an aside, Chick and Tea had a hipster breakfast pop-up last Saturday morning at their Telegraph location.

Ippudo london, Canary Wharf, has no lines. Bankers don’t seem to care about ramen.

Yes, social media is ruining a lot of things.

It’s a global trend fuelled by FOMO underpinned by social media. In London and Sydney it’s the same for niche US burgers. You also see the same in Hong Kong and China.

I wonder if you see the same in countries with a broad based quality food culture - are there the same queues in France, Italy or Spain…? My gut feeling is it’s more prevalent in markets which hype the food culture yet have little underlying quality in main stream food. Diners are constantly chasing the new hot trend because the fundamental offerings are pretty poor in these markets i.e. compare the quality of volume catering in the US/UK/Aus/Asian markets with the relatively few decent (often independent) vfood options.

That said I am not certain these chain offerings are actually any better than the current offerings…but different seems to be good enough.

Is it possible that people, Asians, Latinos, etc. are just longing for a ‘taste from home’? When I was in Guatemala years ago, I had many Pollo Campero meals (why? that’s for another day). I thought it was ok, but nothing earth shattering.

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the urge to brag about dining experience at the hyped up places on social media?

Well, bankers need to worry about their 7, 8 digit bonus more than ramen…

Line at Arsicault bakery
Mensho ramen another example

Add Boba Guys on Stockton St. Lots of baffled tourists.

I walked into an empty Din Tai Fung at lunchtime in Shanghai when they had only one outlet there (Xintiandi). On the same visit I joined a long queue at Jia Jia Tangbao (which also had only one location at the time). Sometimes value trumps cachet

I think the ethnic component of cachet-driven queuing is illusory. Yes, a nonpareil Asian product will attract a mostly Asian queue if the product is mostly known and craved by Asians. But look at the lines at Golden Gate Bakery, Mensho Ramen, and The Boba Guys. They are majority Caucasian most of the time.

In Shanghai I was waiting in a queue at Jia Jia Tang Bao and a passing Asian couple approached me, the only Caucasian in the queue. The husband asked me, in perfect ABC English, what the line was for. “Best xiao long bao in town,” I said.

“For DUMPLiNGS?” said the man incredulously, shrugging his shoulders as they walked away.


Sheepleism. Nothing more, nothing less.

Many people feel more validated in their choices when “everyone is doing it”.

Arsicault is one of the places I was thinking of too. Went there early on and had no problem; stopped by a couple weeks ago and it looked like this. I love their kouignettes, but nothing is worth this.

I remember being in a crazy queue for the first Wagamama in London, and that was over 20 years ago. It was cool, if you like eating in an atmosphere just like “Gattaca.” People wait for 2+ hours at Cheesecake Factory, and those are multigenerational families. It’s all due to hype, which is nothing new.

To be fair, this is just as prevalent in Asia. I don’t think it has anything to do with Asian food in the Bay Area specifically. Anyone’s who queued up at Tokyo Station for a bowl of ramen knows this is not a predominantly US trend. It’s also not really a new phenomenon in San Francisco either… my wife used to live on 18th and Mission and I shacked up with her for 6 months before we moved in together. Our bedroom looked right out to Guerrero and every morning like clockwork, the lines would start forming at Tartine just before 7:30 AM. I never got it and I still don’t understand it. That said, I’d be more inclined to stand around for 30 minutes for a killer bowl of tonkotsu tsukemen or soup dumplings than a morning bun or whatever.

Garrett Popcorn Shop in Tokyo Station right next to the Ramen Street. Those taped queuing line on the floor.:relaxed:

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There’s a simple explanation for the lines at Arsicault these days.

Interesting that they focus on the croissant (which, yeah, is pretty damn good) rather than the kouignettes (which are not only fabulous but also much less common).

But yeah, that would explain it.

The line at La Taqueria around dinnertime is still ridiculous. Thanks, Nate Silver.

I would imagine that Swan still has a crazy line as well.

A few months after I moved to the Bay, I developed my First Law of California: “Is it worth doing? Then masses of people are already lined up to do it.” It’s noticeably worse than the same phenomenon back East, and probably the summer/fall tourist season doesn’t help matters any.

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Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yuanyang County, Yunnan
Credit: inkelv1122, Flickr