August, 2015 I lived in a ramshackle dormitory with a bunch of 17 year old Chinese dudes.

Most of them smoked, all of them kept their phone notifications on at night and one of them would come back at 2am with a bucket of fish.

It was great.

During the day, I was promoting a restaurant in Beijing using the “stand at the door and people will come in” technique. After hearing enough of the questions folks would ask and their reasons for NOT coming in, I wrote a new chuandan we could hand out. FYI the most common questions were:

  1. Is it spicy? My kid doesn’t eat spicy.
  2. What is it? Do you have anything other than fish?
  3. Do you have a table for 9 people? We brought four generations of Zhangs.
  4. 好吃吗?

Here is chuandan 2.0…


The old chuandan was kind of terrible; it said “spend $20 get $10”, but didn’t even mention what kind of food you would buy with your $20. So, some people would be like, “ahh! what’s this?!”, but most would take a quick glance, fold the chuandan over and then go eat somewhere else 🙁

My version is simple because my Chinese is at the level of a talented 4 year old. The front says, “Roast Fish, Spend $20 Get $10. Fish, Shrimp, Frog, Chicken. 16 Flavours: Very Spicy, Kinda Spicy, Less Spicy, Not Spicy. Kids Like It Too. We Have Big Tables, High Chairs and Ice Cream. The bottom bit is the address and phone number. The back is a bunch of testimonials I pulled from DaZhong DianPing, AKA Chinese Yelp.

This chuandan is important to me because…

  • it took me 1 year of studying Chinese to be good enough to write it;
  • another 4 years of doubting whether I should write Chinese copy, because “I’m not good enough to get the nuance”;
  • and then 1 day to actually write it.

I spend a lot of time in my head, and burn a tonne of time and energy thinking about the same things over and over. A great way to free up head space is to process out decisions. For small decisions like writing a chuandan, or going for a run or whether to eat Chipotle for the third time this week, the answer should just be yes. The consequences of making a wrong decision are pretty nil, the benefits can be huge and you win back brain energy to focus on more important stuff.

FWIW, the new chuandan was effective and brought in hundreds of new customers, so actually it’s kind of dope.


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