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Aug 6, 2014 05:36 PM

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot now open in the TL. [San Francisco]

Did a double take when I spotted the familiar logo from the #30 bus going down Mason St. & jumped off to check it out. It opened yesterday at 405 Mason, next to Biscuits and Blues, but still hiring staff. Open at 5:30 daily.

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  1. Beware imposters in Little Sheep clothing.

    10 Replies
    1. re: FoodTrippin

      LOL. Ewe may rest assured that this has the same owners as the little sheep in Dublin and in Cupertino. That means there's not one or two but ... Zzz

      1. re: hyperbowler

        Yeah..... many wannabe "Greedy Sheep", "Fat Sheep"... hot pot packets available at the local supers. Surprised that Yum Brands would locate their first Little Sheep in the Tenderloin. But heck, the location is just off Union Square.

        1. re: FoodTrippin

          There are at least twenty Little Sheeps in the US and Canada -- I can't read the China and Japan location tabs on their website but I'm guessing a bunch more there. Maybe this should be on Chains too ;-).

          1. re: grayelf

            They originated in China (and launched a spate of competitors), so of course there are many there. Shanghai alone currently has 27 (per I've never eaten at one in the US though and have been missing the experience.

            1. re: soupçon

              I was definitely joking, soup, as I don't think overseas chains deserve the same treatment as home grown ones. Santouka is one of my favourite ramen places and it is part of a Japanese chain, for example.

              1. re: grayelf

                And look at Din Tai Fung. More than 100 outlets around the world and nobody suggests discussing it under "Chains." BTW, we're getting a Crystal Jade in SF soon too, another big "chain" operation.

            2. re: grayelf

              Seriously, it should be in "Chains." Literally part of KFC, Pizza Hut, etc. as mentioned in the other thread:

              1. re: eatzalot

                If you can equate Little Sheep to KFC or Pizza Hut, you've obviously never been to one, at least in China.

                Ownership has nothing to do with it if they are operating on the same model they did before Yum acquired them as an additional profit center.

                1. re: soupçon

                  "If you can equate Little Sheep to KFC or Pizza Hut. . ."

                  Sorry for the confusion, that wasn't my meaning at all.

                  Rather, it is the acquisition by Yum! Brands (largest, most notorious of the vast fast-food conglomerates that grace today's US restaurant universe) that links Little Sheep to KFC and Pizza Hut.

                  What this will mean for the (already large) Little Sheep chain in the future, time will tell.

                  The Little Sheeps in the US are well reputed, and locals who know them are eagerly awaiting the one that's pending near me in Mountain View. (It will also have to be a higher-priced, or else far more profitable, business than the popular family-run independent Sichuanese restaurant that was forced out of the same address last year, after the landlord notoriously tripled the rent from 5k to 15k monthly.)

        2. Has anyone tried this location? I went to one in Hohhot and really enjoyed it - more generally: How do the American and Chinese branches compare?

          8 Replies
          1. re: boris_qd

            This location opened only two days ago (and is still hiring in all positions), but I've seen reviews from diners at other Bay Area branches comparing them favorably to the Chinese originals.

            1. re: boris_qd

              And is the SF branch in the vein of the San Mateo "new concept" or more like the rest of the chain?

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                I haven't been inside, so I have no idea. In fact I haven't been in any Little Sheep on this side of Pacific. The "concept" in Shanghai was good enough for me -- basically just good hot pot and unlimited free beer.

                1. re: soupçon

                  was good enough for you to take xiao yang as your moniker. were there still places that had unlimited free beer even in the 50s of our childhood in the U.S. ?

                  1. re: moto

                    The annual Grumman Corporation family picnic, which my uncle and cousin took me to. I even met Miss Rheingold 1959 there, so of course it was "the dry beer".

                    1. re: soupçon

                      sure, and brewery tours had unlimited free brew as well, but was thinking in terms of eateries, cafes, hof braus. were you out in Nassau county, or in one of the boroughs of NY ?

                      1. re: moto

                        I never encountered AYCD free beer in the US. Maybe I never lived in a state with laws that permitted it.

                        I grew up far upstate, but spent the summer of '59 with my cuz in Riverhead, Suffolk County. Grumman had two plants, Bethpage and Calverton, and the picnic was in Calverton.

                        Riverhead was the center of the Long Island duck industry, and the place smelled of duck doo all the time. On a culinary note (to keep this slightly on topic), the highlight of my stay was visiting The Big Duck.


                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  According to a 2010 article from Taiwan, all Little Sheep locations outside of China became franchises in 2007. The change was triggered by loses in Japan, so those Hinabe shops were the first to become franchisees.

                  Unlike the stores in Asia (in South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and UAE) which are controlled by local restaurant groups, the US stores have separate owners, with ample freedom to design their restaurant to fit their local market. So the answer to your question is that there's no specific model concept for US stores (other than logo, marketing materials and menu).

                  Also, franchisees don't use the same fresh food suppliers as China stores. Any food scandals in China don't affect them.

                  Note that the 2013 scandal of rat meat sold as lamb in China was a fake rumor.

                  Other than collecting fees, Yum doesn't control any location outside of China.

                  Franchises continue to be value dining destinations, but according to the Commercial Times, after the 2011 acquisition, Yum rebranded Little Sheep as a high end service concept in China, and raised prices by 30%. Not surprisingly, revenue and sales declined 12% by 2013. It's the worst performing unit in Yum's 2013 annual report.

              2. definitely union square, not tenderloin. too bad it closes at 11:30 on weekends (i think). prime opportunity missed for late-night dining by being across from two late-night clubs that attract a significant asian crowd. i guess there's still katanaya (and jack in the box/pinecrest for post-2am)

                1. Tried it yesterday for the first time and was greatly disappointed. For starters, the service was laughably bad. We were stuck in a private room as a large group, so maybe that was the reason. We ordered items from the checklist menu that never arrived. All the food came out, but we never received our sauces, until I finally ran out and tracked down a waiter 15 minutes later. Napa cabbage came as huge whole leaves and when we asked if they could be cut to a more manageable size, we were told they don't do that.

                  In terms of the food...even the spicy broth was quite bland, and the satay sauce had almost no flavor (unless oily counts as a flavor). I'm not sure if it was the sauce or the broth, but I felt like I consumed a lot of oil during the meal. Veggies were pretty nice and fresh, and there was a nice selection of meats. We liked the spring lamb, and the fish balls stuffed with roe.

                  The broth also had, disappointingly, almost no ma la. Definitely not planning on returning. I have heard nothing but good things about San Mateo, so I'm guessing this franchise just doesn't have their act together. Restaurant was half-empty at Saturday lunchtime if that says anything. On the plus side, no lines!