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November 19, 2009

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It's about burgers, music and beers

ONE of Shanghai's landmark Western bars, Malone's American Cafe on Tongren Road, celebrates its 15th anniversary this week, holding a VIP bash last night and a big party tomorrow.

When Malone's opened its doors, it was the only Western bar in Shanghai outside of the established hotels.

A popular watering hole for Shanghai's then small and tight expat community, the three-story bar and cafe is virtually unchanged from its early days, says Director of Operations Shawn Doyle.

Doyle was part of the original Canadian management team that ran Malone's when it opened, and he says the secret to the bar's longevity in a city where bars close and open every week is that it hasn't changed a winning formula.

"We have been pretty lucky, we have had a good location, we have been able to provide a really consistent product, and part of that is because we have had long-term staff," he says.

"Once you have been around long enough, people will know the name and come and try it. But it is really about keeping it as consistent as possible in the food and drinks, the music and atmosphere and in the service," Doyle says.

Doyle, who has had a hand in opening spots like Bourbon Street, Monsoon Lounge, Minx, Mimosa and La Belle, says that in 1994 it was a very small tight-knit expat community in Shanghai.

"It was like the first year of college, nobody knew anything, nobody knew how long they would be here or what would happen, it was a new frontier for everyone," he recalls.

Around the same time Malone's opened, other Western bars such as Sally's and the Portman Ritz-Carlton's Long Bar, also opened.

At first it was all expat clientele and staff; locals would sometimes come in and stare.

Today customers are around 50-50, Doyle says.

Three members of the staff have been there since the beginning 15 years ago.

Along with their long-term staff, the house band Art 6 from the Philippines have played at Malone's since 2001.

Malone's was originally owned by the Yeo family from Singapore, and last year the brand listed on the SGX, Singapore's stock exchange, as part of the Food Junction Group.

The Malone's brand has steadily expanded in Shanghai with an outlet in Thumb Plaza in Pudong New Area opening two years ago and a new outlet in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, set to open soon.

On Monday Malone's held its annual Thank You party for its regular customers.

Tomorrow it throws a party to celebrate its 15th anniversary, with door prizes and luckydraw giveaways.

The bar recently reached another milestone, selling its 750,000th burger. On average the bar sells about 140 of its popular burgers a day and regularly holds events like the upcoming Thanksgiving meal next Thursday.

"We have tried to keep it simple and consistent over the years, we are not trying to re-invent anything," Doyle says. "It is burgers, music and beers, everyone can relate to that."

Malone's American Cafe in Puxi

Address: 255 Tongren Rd

Tel: 6247-2400


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