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Steamboat / Hot-Pot Diner
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or those who have tried it, there's nothing better than having a hot-pot dinner outdoors or on a chilly night! In Asia, steamboat dinners are a popular way for family's to enjoy a leisurely meal together. Steamboats (hot pots) are basically a comunal pot containing soup or broth and a mixture of anything - seafood, meat, vegetables and noodles. The ingredients are slowly placed in and everybody engages in friendly banter as they eagerly wait for the broth to come to a boil and the contents, cooked.

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A Steamboat / Hot Pot diner is a fairly economical food business to set up - unless you're thinking of an up-market location. Many steamboat diners have set out tables in the open air. Each table basically comprises a comunal hot pot (either electric or gas - although gas is cheaper) in the middle, a soup scoop, draining scoop for each person, and of course, the ingredients. The cost of each meal depends very much on what you order. Seafood - prawns, crabs and fish tend to be a favorite because with each batch cooked in the hot pot, it increases the flavor of the broth. Since its difficult to gauge how much food you'll need, most diners have set menus for specific number of people. Many people will agree that the secret to a successful hot-pot diner is the soup or broth recipy. Get it right, and you'll have a steady stream of customers. This means you're limited only by imagination! There are endless recipes that can be used - from spicy Thai tom-yam soups and vegetable broths to meaty flavored stews and tangy seafood soups. While the broth is usually prepared in large quantities and can be frozen in ready-to-use daily batches for up to a week, may diners prepare the broth daily for freshness.

Since steamboat meals are not a fast-food, rushed meal thing, atmosphere plays an important part in a steamboat/hot pot diner. The open air concept is popular, but many enterprising folks have even found success bringing hot pot meals to customers with a mobile kiosk. This involves a little more investment because you'll need a van or small truck that can carry your broth and ingredients. Most mobile hot pot kiosks are budget operators, so no seating is provided - pretty much like a hot dog stand. How big an operation you intend to set up depends on your budget, but one thing is for sure - this is a novel food idea and the profit margin is pretty hard to resist. Like we said in earlier, get the broth right, and you'll be making loads of money!

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