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English>>China Business

Chinese restaurant chains face challenges

By Li Woke (China Daily)

08:12, September 18, 2012

Pedestrains on Guijie Street, the well-known food street in downtown Beijing with many Chinese restaurants side by side. One effective way to expand and develop Chinese restaurants is to learn from the experience of Western restaurant chains and to standardize the whole cooking process, said Su Qiucheng, president of the China Cuisine Association. [Photo/China Daily]

For a Chinese restaurant, expanding across the country or even outside the country can be much harder than starting from zero.

"I have five Chinese restaurants in Beijing but I am finding it very difficult to expand further because making sure every dish at every restaurant is exactly the same is problematic," said Liu Tao, general manager of a Yunnan cuisine restaurant in Beijing.

Take the famous General Tso's chicken or kung pao chicken as an example. Cooks have to mix the chicken, salt and egg white before heating the wok. Then dozens of seasonings are added to enrich the flavor, such as pepper, garlic, soy sauce, cooking wine, monosodium glutamate, vinegar, starch, sesame oil, Chinese onions and peanuts.

The dish will taste very different if the cooks add fewer or more seasonings or if it is cooked at a different temperature.

"In Chinese cuisine, one dish can taste totally different if it is made by different chefs," said Jia Guolong, board chairman of Xibei Restaurant.

Another Chinese fast food chain, Xinshang Fast Food in Qingdao, also struggled to satisfy customers while expanding locally. "Ensuring customers at each store have the same quality fast food is a major task," said Zhang Hongji, board chairman of the chain.

"Many problems lie in the way of the fast expansion of the Chinese catering industry," said Su Qiucheng, president of the China Cuisine Association. "These include the lack of specifications in the supply of raw materials, the lack of standards for kitchen jobs, the lack of logistics and distribution outlets, fragile franchisee management and vague brand development strategies, which Western fast food giants have already established."

Jia said one effective way to expand and develop Chinese restaurants is to learn from the experience of Western restaurant chains and to standardize the whole cooking process.

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