Unstoppable: Andy and Mia

Andy Shiau and Mia Zhao outside Little High Eatery in Christchurch

Andy Shiau and Mia Zhao

In just three years, Mia Zhao and Andy Shiau have managed to bring the city Eightgrains, Sushi Soldier, TOM, Ramen Ria, Midnight Shanghai, Dose Diner, Gelato and Tea and more. While the list of their accomplishments is long, the pair are as humble as ever. Each establishment they’ve opened has been special to them in a different way and is the end result of careful planning and a hands on approach to hospitality. We caught up with them to learn more about how they keep it all together, and thriving.

What restaurant did you open first and where’d the inspiration come from?

Andy: Three years ago we opened Eightgrains and Sushi soldier at Little High. Just a few days ago, we opened Midnight Shanghai at Riverside Market and that’s a grown up version of the first two really. We’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from our travels.

Where have you travelled?

Mia: China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan. All of these places are really special to us and our menus are inspired by them.  When we travel we do a lot of research which looks like eating about ten meals a day and keeping track of what we want to recreate. We’ve been so busy bringing our ideas recently to life that we’ve not been able to travel as much. But it’s also been an interesting journey because it's led us to discover a bit more about our own backgrounds, too.

What do you mean by that?

Mia: I’m from Nanjing and Andy is from Taiwan. We grew up in different places, ate different foods. We go back to those memories a lot when we’re working. I came to Christchurch when I was 17, Andy came over when he was 12. When we opened Eightgrains he had about ten years of hospo experience and I didn’t have any...
Andy: But she’s still here, and she wouldn’t be if she thought it was boring!

What do you think has made your restaurants successful?

Andy: None of the places we’ve opened have ever been just another restaurant to us. Every spot we’ve opened we’ve spent a long time thinking about. We were the first to sign an upstairs lease at Riverside Market for Midnight Shanghai. We really trusted the developers from our experience at Little High. We’ve also got a really good team.
Mia: We put a ton of energy into training our staff so that they understand where we come from and why we do what we do. We want them to know as much about our menus and story as we do so that they can enjoy what we serve, too. This way our story gets across to our customers. 

Any advice you might give to someone just starting out in the business?

Andy: We never get it right the first time. You have to keep at it and stay positive. Also, take time to really train your staff, like Mia said, so they understand where you come from and how your story relates to what they’re serving.

How does one assemble a great team?

Andy: Look hard and look for people with great attitudes.
Mia: We’re always happy to hire someone with a great attitude even if they don't have a lot of hospo experience. We can always train someone up if they’re happy to be here.

What does your favorite day at any of your restaurants look like?

Andy: Happy customers! When we’ve got happy customers in the house the whole tempo of the day changes. It makes everyone happy.
Mia: Seeing our team feeling confident!

Do you have plans to open anything else in 2020?

Andy: We’ll call you if we do… haha, no we really want to learn more about the management side of things this year. 
Mia: We’re learning more about HR this year, oh and we also have a pastry chef coming over from Hong Kong who will be ramping up the dessert side of things this year!

Andy Shiau and Mia Zhao's Neat Places