Catering industry booming across China

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A robot server carrying dishes to fulfill diners’ order arrives at a table in Haidilao’s new artificial intelligence hotpot restaurant in Beijing. Reuters

BEIJING (Xinhua) – China’s catering industry posted a record high of 4.27 trillion yuan (about $628 billion) in revenue in 2018.

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The figure marked a rise of 9.5 percent from the previous year, accounting for 11.2 percent of the country’s total retail sales of consumer goods, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Driven by consumption upgrade, the industry was heading into “a new era of innovation and high-quality development with supply-side reform as its mainstay,” said Han Ming, director of China Hospitality Association.

Eco-friendly catering, or green catering, was a highlight of China’s catering industry development in 2018. In June 2018, Chinese government issued a guideline on advancing green catering, seeking to open 5,000 green restaurants and cut kitchen waste and energy consumption per 10,000 yuan of revenue by at least 20 percent by 2022.

The guideline called for a higher threshold for industry access, an evaluation system for eco-friendliness along the industry chain and less use of plastic packaging.

Provinces and cities in China have taken actions in line with the guideline. The Catering Industry Association of Jiangsu Province in east China published a set of detailed green catering standards on Jan 15, including requirements on safety, waste reduction and environmental protection. Nanchang, the capital city of the central China province of Jiangxi, is encouraging restaurants to use more recyclable appliances.

Stimulated by the rapid development of e-commerce and cold chain logistics, Chinese restaurants are quickly staking out the territories of e-commerce and making business innovation to combine on-line and brick-and-mortar business together, according to reports released by China Hospitality Association.

China’s largest seafood hotpot chain Haidilao launched in recent years a series of instant bowl hotpot, with each pack containing the brand’s trademark dishes. The product, sold at around 30 yuan each pack, is voted 99 percent in favour on the e-commerce platform JD.com.

Enriching customers’ dining experiences is another industry trend. Restaurants are exploring social media-friendly interior decor, cuisine design and interactive programmes to cater to the young generations, said Mr Han.

Restaurants in China are becoming smarter, capable to launch targeted marketing based on consumer portraits made through big data. They also use big data to select sites for new stores, update dishes seasonally, optimise supply chain and operational management and enhance business efficiency.

Assisted by big data analysis, unmanned restaurants are turning from a business concept into reality. The latest installment of China’s smart restaurants opened Monday at Qingdao North Railway Station in Shandong Province. The unmanned restaurant, believed to be first in China’s railway system, can provide customers with a full meal within 26 seconds, according to reports by Science and Technology Daily.

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