Old Niu and Mr Xiang argued about this for a long time, both refusing to give in. Fuelled by the alcohol in them, things got more and more heated.
Mrs Xiang and Mrs Niu could do nothing about it but smile wryly as they said, "Alright, stop arguing, the two of you. In terms of business, both of you added together can't compare to a single finger of Tingsheng's. With him here, what are you foolishly fighting for? Ask Tingsheng about it and see who's right!"
"Yeah, what do you think, Tingsheng?" Uncle Niu turned to look at Xu Tingsheng.
"It's fine, Tingsheng, just say what you think. It doesn't matter even if I'm wrong," Mr Xiang added, though the look of anticipation in his eyes clearly showed how this future father-in-law hoped for his viewpoint to be validated.
Now Xu Tingsheng was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Firstly, he definitely could not afford to offend his future father-in-law. Yet, it seemed like Uncle Niu could not be offended too.
"So," Xu Tingsheng considered this for a moment before saying, "Actually, Uncle and Uncle Niu, the two of you are both right. Firstly, after a business has reached a certain state, an expansion would be necessary for its growth. So, Uncle Niu wasn't wrong. Still, I feel that a restaurant like ours would actually expand best not by increasing its physical size but through a franchise in opening branch stores elsewhere, even in other cities. Letting others join the franchise is an option too. Otherwise, in the same district where the total number of potential customers is basically constant, just the mere physical expansion of the restaurant alone would not hold much significance."
His words already somewhat surpassed what Mr Xiang and Old Niu knew of. The two pondered on it for a time. Branch stores, franchises, stores in other cities...whatever. What Old Niu was most concerned about here was that Xu Tingsheng had judged that he was right, that their restaurant should expand.
"See, I was right!" Old Niu exclaimed as he looked triumphantly at Mr Xiang.
Before Mr Xiang could reply, Xu Tingsheng hurriedly interjected, "Actually, Uncle Niu, Uncle is right too. We're just offering some common dishes right now with nothing very special at all. Ambitiously expanding without any specialities of our own is unfeasible. It's just too risky."
Only with that did Mr Xiang's complexion improve somewhat.
Xu Tingsheng's ambiguous answer ultimately hinged on the fact that they would need some novelty dishes if they wanted to expand.
"How about noodles then?" Mrs Niu asked.
"In that case, we might as well make dumplings," Mrs Xiang said.
"It doesn't seem like there's anything special that we can try," Mr Xiang looked crestfallen as he considered it for a while but just could not come up with anything.
"Don't look at me. I definitely can't think of anything," Uncle Niu gave up on using his brain without even bothering to venture an attempt.
As he listened to their conversation, Xu Tingsheng was suddenly reminded of something for which even franchises would not be a problem...braised chicken rice. This thing had suddenly risen overnight over those two years before his rebirth, coming to encompass the entire country as it could be found in streets and roads everywhere.
While it was unknown how long this popularity boom might last, it had indeed been crazy popular over that period of time. Some people had even lumped braised chicken rice with Shaxian's street food and Lanzhou's beef noodles, jointly hailing the trio as Chinese food's monarch trio.
The other two food varieties were already more or less widely available now. Braised chicken rice was still relatively obscure in comparison.
If they could learn the relevant culinary skills and incorporate it into their restaurant, creating hype and starting a franchise...it would literally be the broad, majestic road to a food empire.
With that in mind, Xu Tingsheng said, "Uncle, Auntie, I feel that special things definitely wouldn't be so easy to find on the market. They may even need considerable effort on your part to learn them, and even after you have done so, it will still take considerable time and effort to succeed."
Xu Tingsheng was trying to ease them into his suggestion.
"If there's really something good, we would definitely be happy to learn it! It's not like we've never suffered hardship before. That's not a problem," Mr Xiang said, naturally having some gradually mounting anticipation now that he had ended up becoming the boss of a flourishing business.
Hearing this, Xu Tingsheng hesitated no longer as he inquired, "Uncle, Auntie, have you ever heard of braised chicken rice?"
The other four all had quizzical looks on their faces.
Xu Tingsheng knew that he had misspoken as he hurriedly tried to cover it up, "Maybe I got the name wrong. Maybe it's really called Fragrant Pot Chicken, Richly Scented Pot Chicken Rice or whatnot. Anyway, I know that this thing exists and that people know how to make it in Jinan. You could try to look into this first. Then, if somewhere there is willing to teach you, whatever the conditions they ask for, you definitely wouldn't make a loss if two of you were to go there."
"Go to Jinan to learn it?"
"What if it costs a lot of money?"
While Xu Tingsheng said nothing in reply, he believed that it would surely be worthwhile. While he himself did not like eating braised chicken rice all that much, from a commercial standpoint, it would surely be worthwhile even if they had to spend some tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands on this.
It was not just a restaurant that he was thinking about. It was a brand.
He did not say this out loud to Mr and Mrs Xiang, giving them a full business proposition along with overly great enthusiasm for the idea. It was just a mere idea for them to consider as any and all decisions would have to be made by both the Xiang and the Niu families themselves.
As for whether they would act on it or not, could learn it or not, it was actually not so important.
"In that case, we'll get someone to look into it for us when we're free. If someone is really willing to teach it to us, two of us will go try it out. If it's delicious, it's fine even we have to pay some," Mr Xiang expressed his thoughts as he was evidently not that much enthusiastic about this.
This was basically the case for both the Xiang and Niu families. After all, in their eyes, this was merely a single dish at the end of the day.
Xu Tingsheng spoke no further on this matter. It was already enough that he had brought this up. As for what remained, it would have to depend on fate. When all was said and done, this might not affect him and the Xiang family very much at all.
Lu Zhixin had lessons the entire Friday morning. After the fourth period had ended, she walked away from the classroom buildings with her roommates, intending to have lunch at the canteen.
Xu Tingsheng pulled up by the roadside with his decrepit Volkswagen.
There was no way Lu Zhixin would not recognise this car. As her ringtone sounded, she answered the call.
"I see you. Do you see my car?" Xu Tingsheng cut to the chase.
"Come on, hop in. I'll treat you to lunch."
"Huh? Is something the matter?"
"No, I'm just treating you to lunch."
Facing the good-intentioned laughter and disparaging 'prioritises men over friends' remarks of her roommates, Lu Zhixin got on Xu Tingsheng's car.
They went to a restaurant in Xishan County where Hucheng had previously had its victory celebration. Xu Tingsheng and Lu Zhixin sat at the corner table and ordered five dishes.
Lu Zhixin had been feeling puzzled throughout, in truth. Still, Xu Tingsheng said nothing as he simply talked and ate normally with her. Lu Zhixin's reaction had been the calmest after Little Xiang Ning had been exposed. This had caused Xu Tingsheng the realisation that she had already managed to steadily accept it and move on.
"She's such a calm and objective person, with both high IQ and EQ. There shouldn't be a problem, right? Having no stance is itself a stance," This was what Xu Tingsheng thought.
When the meal was nearly over, Xu Tingsheng finally gestured towards the remaining soup and food on the plates and asked Lu Zhixin, "What do you think this remaining foodstuff can be used for?"