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January 10, 2014

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Restaurants all booked for New Year dinner

More than 80 percent of tables at downtown restaurants for the Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner are already booked, the Shanghai Restaurants Association said yesterday.

A meal for about 10 people costs about 2,000 yuan (US$322.58) on an average this year, which is slightly lower than last year, the association said.

At some restaurants a table for 10 costs between 1,300 yuan to 1,500 yuan.

The association said the reservation rate is about the same as last year.

Nianyefan, or the dinner on the Lunar New Year’s Eve, which falls on January 30 this year, is the most important gathering of family members, similar to Christmas Eve in the West.

At some of the local time-honored restaurants like Xinhualou and Xinya Cantonese Restaurant, some diners even booked tables almost immediately after finishing last year’s nianyefan, according to Jin Peihua, deputy secretary of the association.

All the 30-plus outlets of Xiao Nan Guo in the city are fully booked.

Some outlets of the Dafugui restaurant, which has a history dating back to 1881, are booked from January 30 to February 5, almost the end of the seven-day Spring Festival holiday, Jin said.

A few of the popular restaurants have made changes in their services this year.

Diners can now order from the menu at  Xiao Nan Guo instead of buying separate packages — usually the preferred option for restaurants to deal with the busiest time of the year.

Jade Garden is doing away with oily and fatty dishes and will focus more on steamed, seafood, mushroom and other healthy cuisines.

Big demand for semi-finished products

Semi-finished food products are also proving popular for nianyefan.

The Lunar New Year’s Eve is excluded from this year’s national holidays, thus pushing up demand for semi-processed food as people will struggle to find time to cook after work.

“It is convenient. I don’t need to wash and slice them. I just have to fry these semi-cooked eatables,” said Lu Yingying, a local nurse.

She was checking the list of semi-finished products available after her preferred  restaurant in Hongkou District is having a makeover.

Restaurants said some of their semi-finished nianyefan were previously bought by companies, but this time a good portion of them are being ordered by residents because of a campaign against spending to curb extravagance and waste.

“We are selling semi-finished nianyefan online at Tmall (a B2C shopping site) for the first time this year,” said Pu Wei, a spokeswoman at Jade Garden.

The Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission said the number of complaints about nianyefan has spiked in recent years and suggested that consumers should sign a contract with restaurants when booking a table for nianyefan.

“For semi-finished products, we are telling consumers to pick them up early as some of the complaints we received were about restaurants failing to deliver despite taking bookings for them,” said Tao Ailian, an official with the commission.

Travel package with nianyefan popular

Travel agencies have also profited from the Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner as their tour packages with nianyefan sell well.

The travel packages include expensive meal at high-end restaurants or hotels and tours to neighboring cities.

“Over the past few years, nongjiale, or dining at farmer’s house, was popular, but people now prefer high-end hotels and resorts for nianyefan because of the poor facilities at nongjiale,” said He Yiwei, deputy manager of the Datong Travel Agency.

More than 1,400 people have booked nianyefan tours with the travel agency, accounting for about 60 percent of its tour groups, with local families making the majority of them.

Tours to Ningbo with a trip to hot spring resort and Tianmu Lake in Zhejiang Province are among the most popular packages, He said yesterday.





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