LA's Haidilao Is One Of The World's Largest Restaurants With Crowds To Match

Hot pot restaurant Haidilao can seem wildly chaotic to some diners, but the lively establishment is part of a large company of restaurants that have helped cement founder Zhang Yong as one of the world's wealthiest entrepreneurs in hospitality. In addition to the bustling restaurants, Zhang oversees Yihai International, a condiment maker and purveyor of spicy broths — an essential component of the Haidilao chain. 

The first Haidilao restaurant opened in the United States northeast of downtown Los Angeles in Arcadia. Since its arrival in 2013, over a dozen other American locations have welcomed customers eager to slurp down steaming bowls filled with vegetables and protein-packed broth. At the Los Angeles restaurant, Haidilao rests on a 12,500 square-foot plot and serves up the expected Sichuan hot pot accoutrements to visitors. Customers are treated to not only the many delicious dishes, but can play board games as they wait for their food to cook or marvel at employees dexterously stretching noodles as part of regular performances. While you're waiting for your table, fruit and hot tea is held in containers for visitors, and instant packages of noodles are stacked for those who don't have the patience to wait and want to grab food to  go. 

The more the merrier at Haidilao

Now with over 300 locations worldwide, a trip to Haidilao has become more than just a visit to a restaurant. It's an experience. Food is made table-side by diners who have carefully selected which kind of dish they want. Ingredients are poked by skewers and placed into broth as visitors patiently watch their meal cook. Employees are on hand to help facilitate, choose meal options, and refill empty drink glasses. The menu is on an iPad, so customers can easily choose what they want, and kids eat free. 

Haidilao blurs the line between entertainment and restaurant, as employees dance while you watch your food simmer in bubbling broth. In addition to employees spinning noodles in the air, visitors have an expansive buffet of sauce, ingredients, and desserts to pick from. It's a reliable destination to host a group party, and you can place your cell phone into a little plastic baggie to protect it from accidental splashes and spills from the meal. Should one of these frenetic locations not be situated near your home, you can replicate the energetic experience at your home by serving up spicy broth for guests to simmer protein and vegetables to tender perfection.