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September 21, 2020

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Catering sector set for full revival

As dinnertime approached, food aficionados began to form a long line at the entrance of a popular crayfish restaurant in Changsha, capital of central China’s Hunan Province.

After the resumption of dine-in service on March 16, Wenhoyo Superb, also began accepting online reservations. However, many diners still queue up at the gate.

“Our business began to gradually recover after the resumption of work. The online booking service helps a lot to prevent long queues and attract more customers,” said Li Mingyue, a staffer.

The COVID-19 epidemic hit the Chinese catering industry hard as it forced the temporary closure of many restaurants and saw customers stay home rather than dine out.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s catering revenue was 1.46 trillion yuan (US$216 billion) in the first half of this year, down 32.8 percent year on year.

With the epidemic generally contained, China’s catering industry is seeing clear signs of recovery. The catering revenue decline narrowed to 11 percent on year in July, and to 7 percent in August, data showed.

“Catering consumption is expected to return to the pre-epidemic level by the end of the year,” said Liu Yan, of the China Hospitality Association.

With the theme of “innovative integration, quality consumption,” the three-day 2020 China International Food & Catering Expo in Changsha concluded yesterday.

More than 2,000 companies from home and abroad participated in the expo, aiming to seek potential partners, promote products and services, and revive their business.

Given the epidemic’s impact, the expo served as a crucial platform to stabilize the market and boost orders of domestic food and catering firms.

It is an excellent platform to promote Sino-British trade and also brings opportunities for British firms to explore the Chinese mainland market, said Tom Simpson, managing director of China operations of the China-Britain Business Council, at the opening ceremony.

The epidemic has forced the catering sector to innovate, Zhao Jingqiao, a researcher of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said at the expo.

Zhao said that development trends including market integration, industry digitalization and capitalization, as well as internationalization and specialization of the division of labor will bring more opportunities to the catering sector.

Wenhoyo Superb has set up booths for other popular local food and beverage brands. While energizing other brands, the move helped attract more consumers and enrich their dining experience, said Li.

Meituan Dianping, a major e-commerce platform for services, has launched a program to facilitate digital transformation of the catering industry post- epidemic, which is expected to benefit about 1 million merchants within one year.

“Online catering platforms will help consumers make inquiries and reservations, and more accurately match supply and demand between consumers and catering enterprises,” said Jiao Weiming, director of Meituan’s consumption promotion center.

As the nationwide “Clear your plate” campaign gains steam, many restaurants on Meituan have joined the movement and introduced “small-plate meals” to reduce food waste.

Four associations, including the China Cuisine Association, have recently issued a joint proposal with Meituan, calling on catering firms to promote thrift and combat food waste.

At the same time, a Meituan system is helping restaurants forecast their daily turnover, monitor their inventory in real time, and estimate their purchase quantity, all in a bid to reduce food waste.


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