Shanghai, China — For two sisters who have lived in a Chinese-style palace for years, the first-floor home they bought at a Beijing market in the past six years is a symbol of their ambition to become world-class restaurant chefs.
The two-story, 4,200-square-foot apartment, which features a large terrace with views of the city, features stainless steel appliances, a modern kitchen and a pool table for their two sons.
The price tag for the villa?
A mere 300,000 yuan ($4,000) per month, said Li Yanhua, the sister who bought it.
The cost of living in Beijing is about $1,400 per month.
After the sister and her husband moved to Shanghai in 2013, they found they had to rent a similar apartment in the city’s central business district.
They decided to take matters into their own hands and opened their own restaurant in a small residential area in the upscale Tiananmen Square neighborhood.
When they saw the price of the villas on the market, they decided to buy them as well.
The siblings had hoped to expand their family’s menu into a full-fledged restaurant by opening a villa on the top floor, which would feature a large kitchen and dining room.
To be sure, there were other options to buy the villagas, which are still a popular choice in China.
In a city where the average monthly salary is just 600,000, the cost of renting a villas can top a million yuan ($3,100).
The sister said she was surprised to discover how much the sisters’ restaurant was able to generate revenue from their business, especially since they have to pay their staff, including the cooks, to serve their guests.
“Our restaurant has become so successful that we can afford to hire the cooks who prepare our food,” Li said.
As the sisters grew in number and income, they also discovered they needed more space for their growing kitchen.
In 2014, the sisters started building a new kitchen, with a space for just two employees.
The sisters then moved to a larger villa that features two large, open kitchens and a larger dining area.
Li Yanhua said the sisters were surprised to find the villan also has a pool.
The pool area has an open space for dining and swimming.
With the sisters making money by renting villas and their own restaurants, they are planning to open a second restaurant in the next few years, but that location remains unknown.
A few weeks after the sisters moved to the Beijing market, Li Yanua’s mother took a trip to the Shenzhen Chinese Cultural Capital to look for other potential restaurants in Shenzhen.
In the days after her trip, the two sisters heard rumors about a new restaurant that was being planned by a local couple, the Wang brothers, who are Chinese nationals.
Li Yanhuan said the brothers had offered to buy a villan for her sister and the Wangs.
That evening, the siblings met with Wang Wang, who introduced the two to the brothers and said they were interested in buying a villá.
The Wang brothers said they would rent out the villá to other families if the sisters could afford to rent it.
About a month later, the brothers opened their first restaurant in Shenzen, called the Shangri-La Inn.
Shangri-la Inn is now the most popular Chinese-themed restaurant in China, said Liu Gui, a Shanghai-based restaurant consultant.
It serves traditional Chinese dishes like sesame chicken and beef stew with vegetables, and it is also known for its signature red curry sauce, which is popular in China and the U.S. Liu said the restaurant is known for being very low-key and not making a splash.
He said it has had no trouble attracting diners.
One day, when the sisters visited the restaurant, they noticed the dining room had already been filled.
They wanted to ask for a reservation, but the restaurant staff was busy with customers, so they left without asking, Liu said.
They returned a few days later with the same reservation.
The restaurant’s popularity and the number of diners has grown in recent months, as many Chinese tourists flock to Shenzhen to experience the city.