The massive wealth increase among Chinese consumers and big number stats are often in the news – just Google “Double 11 shopping festival 2019” and stand back as the headlines flow. Strategy heads and innovation senior vice presidents over in Paris and London could be forgiven for thinking that the streets of second-tier Chinese cities are paved with gold, all the way to the Bund restaurants that they’ve tried and loved on their immersive quarterly work trips. View this post on Instagram Food is not important any more. A post shared by Kaixian ZHENG (@seeeafooood) on Nov 3, 2019 at 6:10am PST Yet in the world of F&B, staking an entire business model on the idea that “because they have wealth, then they want fine dining”, is no longer a safe bet. The traditional idea of fine dining in China circa 2001-2010 relied on a concept that Chinese customers would be impressed with classicism and a hoity-toity affair based on artfully sniffing wine corks and having serviettes finessed onto their laps. Since this idea was conceived, the wealthy Chinese demographic has travelled the world and experienced any form of luxury that it so desires. More importantly, an entirely new wealthy demographic has come of age with entirely new tastes. Their preferences are not based on 1990s western ideas of a luxury dining experience and they can’t be sold on foie gras, truffles and caviar. Emphasising “high quality” alone is no longer a unique selling point in first-tier Chinese cities. Instead, success lies in an experience that’s welcoming, affordable and with a community feel. Younger Chinese diners want everything to be social … They don’t care about who’s making the food so much as care about their own experience. They want to be the star Paul Wong, executive director of Kollectiv Creative Hub The story of casual upscale View this post on Instagram A post shared by Dorisssssss (@ymmdoris) on Jun 24, 2018 at 7:30am PDT We like to think about the moment when a Spanish chef first arrived in China, perhaps at Pudong airport, staring at everything that was new, and different, and strange. Did chef Willy know that his concept of dining would have such an impact on the rest of the city? The restaurant El Willy is a story of el winning, as the global appeal of “fun” proved that “localisation” is not the only path to success. A decade ago, the timing was ideal for El Willy to bring a lighter, brighter and sexier form of dining that was still high-quality, but did away with tablecloths and prix fixe. Others were on the same page, with the likes of Mercato, Commune Social, Goga and so on delivering quality – but at a more affordable price and with a different tack. Casual upscale in China was born, and has been growing healthily ever since. The experience, content and community View this post on Instagram Hailife with good friends #haibygoga A post shared by Su Wang (@heysu) on Jul 14, 2018 at 4:35am PDT Casual upscale is welcoming, unpretentious, without a dress code or need to have airs and graces. The interior design can be funky, versatile and mood-lifting. The menu can be bold, expressive, distinct and the food can be whatever it wants. Something of a guru in mingling all of these ingredients together for F&B brands entering China is Paul Wong, executive director of Kollektiv Creative Hub, a design and branding agency based in Shanghai. Paul told us that:“the content borne from casual upscale lends itself ideally to China’s social media generation – millennials and Gen Z. “Unexpected, humorous, visual, snappy and sharp, casual upscale has more of a free rein to let the branding speak, along with the people and the products. That freedom is vital when meeting the bold expressives that Chinese Gen Z is looking for in their personal lives.” The community can be built from the customers feeling understood and wanting to be allied with a style of brand that doesn’t conform to the rules and regulations of high-quality dining, but breaks out and blazes its own trail. View this post on Instagram #attoprimoshanghai #italianrestaurant #onthebund5 #privatevents #63280271 #63280272 #tailormade #13916474770 #castellodiamorosa A post shared by ATTO PRIMO (@attoprimoshanghai) on May 11, 2019 at 1:13am PDT As Gianluca Serafin, head chef of Shanghai’s Atto Primo, put it, “There are many wealthy younger diners, but these consumers are not infinite and a business needs to consider the entry-point for more of a mass quantity who aren’t going to go for very expensive fine dining every day. So the price point of casual upscale is more welcoming as a start and brings them in to the brand.” This way, a whole new audience can be targeted by the business, rather than solely speaking to the wealthy yet more limited demographic. Size isn’t everything, neither is a name View this post on Instagram A day with @chloe ♀️ #ArchitaDresscode #chloeGIRLS #ChloeSHANGHAI #ChloeSPRING20 #AlistCorporate @alist.co.th A post shared by อาชิตา (@architasiri) on Jun 4, 2019 at 10:01pm PDT “Younger Chinese diners want everything to be social – which lends itself to more smaller plates – more photo opportunities for social media”, Gianluca told us. “Of course, there are many styles of marketing that one can begin with when opening a restaurant. Word of mouth is via social media these days, so as a chef, we can’t fight the trends. As long we are still proud of the quality that we are putting out, then why not adapt to modern day trends such as smaller tapas-style dishes, with a greater tendency to share on social media.” Yes, there is enormous wealth in China and there is certainly an offering that can work – just look at the success of Michelin-starred venues such as Taian Table or the plethora of five-star hotel venues. Yet for others, going in right at the top end alone might be misleading, versus the versatility and crowd-pleasing nature that casual upscale can win with. “For incoming brands, I think the age of just having a big name chef and then you get the business – that era has gone. Nowadays the younger generation is looking for more casual places rather than those where everyone is so serious all the time,” said Bob Miao, former head of the Michelin Guide Shanghai . Paul Wong concurred with this point: “Chinese millennials may not have even heard of a western name chef. They don’t care about who’s making the food so much as care about their own experience. They want to be the star.” Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .