Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐), a world famous dumpling house based in Taipei, reported on Monday that its profits so far this year had fallen by almost 30 percent compared with the same period last year, and that it had suspended plans to open branches in the Philippines and Thailand as a result of the economic downturn.
Din Tai Fung, which started as an innocuous-looking shop at the intersection of Yongkang Street and Xinyi Road, specializes in small, steamed pork dumplings called xiaolongbao, but its chicken soup and other dumplings are also favorites among visitors from all over the world.
The restaurant is not only a common stop for international tourists eager to sample the treats, but is also a popular gourmet eatery among Taipei residents.
It is particularly popular among Japanese tourists, including celebrities. When Japanese pop singer Ayumi Hamasaki was in Taiwan to hold a concert at Taipei Arena last year, she invited one of Din Tai Fung’s chefs to make dumplings on the spot before the show.
Another Japanese singer, Kosuke Atari, who featured in the film Cape No. 7, also mentioned his love of Din Tai Fung’s dumplings at a promotional event for the film earlier this year.
Din Tai Fung was rated as one of the top 10 gourmet restaurants in the world by the New York Times in 1993 and has branches in many countries.
It also dispatched chefs to Britain and France last year to demonstrate their culinary skills.
Over the years, the long lines of customers waiting outside the dumpling house to try the xiaolongbao and other delicacies has become a common sight, but even this Taipei institution is feeling the pinch of a weak global economy.
“The number of customers has actually dwindled,” said Hu Huei-yi (胡慧宜), head of the restaurant’s public relations section.
“Usually the restaurant is full of customers all the time, but now there’s a noticeable difference between peak and off-peak periods,” Hu said.
But despite the drop in profits, Din Tai Fung is still a profitable enterprise, Hu said.
Hu attributed the lower earnings mainly to a decline in the number of local customers, adding that statistics had shown no significant decrease in the number of tourists from other countries.
She said the restaurant’s economic resilience was a result of its diversification of services, which now includes home delivery and take-out, and its participation in food fairs and exhibitions.