Chinese Spring Festival
Chinese Spring Festival

By Chang Biluo, He Yong

China’s catering sector saw about 821 billion yuan (about $126.6 billion) in the combined sales of key retail and catering enterprises during the weeklong Spring Festival holiday that lasted from Feb. 11 to 17, marking a year-on-year growth of 28.7 percent from the same period last year, according to data released by the country’s Ministry of Commerce (MOC) on Wednesday.

While strictly implementing epidemic prevention and control measures, catering enterprises have proactively enriched and upgraded their menus and innovated online and offline business models during this year’s Spring Festival, also known as the Chinese Lunar New Year.

At the same time, food delivery service providers have made active efforts to respond to the needs of catering enterprises and constantly improve the quality of their services.

Through joint efforts and efficient coordination, catering companies and food delivery service providers in China managed to provide consumers with customized, diversified, and high-quality catering services during the Spring Festival holiday, a traditional peak season for catering consumption in China.

A restaurant named “Lao Chongqing” in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality enjoyed brisk business during the recently-concluded Spring Festival holiday. Festively decorated by red lanterns and an eye-catching large poster, the restaurant witnessed its busiest period of the year in the past week, with customers keeping coming in even after lunchtime on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

“We launched New Year’s Eve dinner delivery service this year. There is a lot of work to do,” Chen Cong, owner of the restaurant, said with a smile, adding that they managed to guarantee high-quality services and strict anti-epidemic measures amid the busy work.

Every staff member of the restaurant must go through a morning check before entering the lobby of the restaurant, Chen pointed out, explaining that staff members have their body temperatures measured, report their travel records, and get disinfected during the check. According to Chen, he and his employees would clean and disinfect the restaurant for several times a day.

“I just ordered New Year’s Eve dinner, and I’m going to wait for it at home,” said a man surnamed Liu delightedly. Liu was thrilled to find out that he could order New Year’s Eve dinner, or the family reunion dinner, for two after visiting the restaurant, as he was worried that restaurants only provide meals for large groups.

Liu and his wife are not natives of Chongqing, yet they chose to stay rather than returning to their hometown during the holiday, in response to the call of the country for people to stay put during the Spring Festival holiday to prevent COVID-19 spread.

Besides delivering New Year’s Eve dinner to people’s homes, some restaurants even launched the service that allows people to have cooks prepare dishes they ordered at their own kitchens.

The fact that many people chose to stay put during the Spring Festival holiday has added to the popularity of catering businesses, especially food delivery platforms, in the country.

Data from China’s popular online food delivery platform Meituan Dianping indicated that the platform saw 200 percent more searches for New Year’s Eve dinner-related information since Jan. 15 than that found in the same period last year, and that restaurants have made great efforts to prepare New Year’s Eve dinner sets that can be delivered to consumers.

“Unlike previous years, many restaurants have been open during this year’s Spring Festival. According to our statistics, nearly 70 percent of the restaurants across the country have been open in the period,” an executive of Meituan Dianping told the People’s Daily.

“I didn’t expect to deliver more than 40 orders on the Chinese Lunar New Year’s Eve, which was almost the same as that I usually handle within one day,” said Li Mingming, a 30-year-old food delivery man of Meituan Dianping. The man chose to stick to his post at a branch of Meituan Dianping in Wangjing neighborhood in Chaoyang district of Beijing during this year’s Spring Festival holiday.

Although people who chose to stay put during the holiday couldn’t reunite with their family and have meals together, many of them prepared New Year’s Eve dinner for themselves with the help of food delivery platforms.

On the Chinese Lunar New Year’s Eve, the number of online orders for food delivery services surged by 70 percent year on year, while popular catering brands witnessed an 82-percent sharp rise in sales of takeout food, as shown by data from Meituan Dianping.

Semi-finished and small servings of New Year’s Eve dinner sets have become hot topics during the Spring Festival holiday, when some catering enterprises launched New Year’s Eve dinner sets for one.

Unlike traditional offline New Year’s Eve dinner, which features lively atmosphere, New Year’s Eve dinner sets offered via online platforms won favor with consumers for their smaller servings and daintiness.

Data released by Meituan Dianping revealed that the number of orders for meals for one person rose 66 percent on the Chinese Lunar New Year’s Eve from that on the same day of the previous year.

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