|The photo, taken on Jan. 12, shows the lobby of (Beijing) Shang Hai Old Restaurant in Beijing's Xicheng District. The restaurant offers two affordable semi-finished dinner packages meant for 10 persons on New Year's Eve, which are priced at 980 and 1680 respectively. [Photo: CRIENGLISH/ Liu Ranran]|
With Spring Festival approaching, the lunar New Year reunion dinner in China has become a major selling point of many catering companies. With widespread dismay throughout the past few years over the rising dinner prices, many restaurants have embraced the populist sentiment by lowering price to attract consumers.
After the Chinese government called for its officials to curb public consumption and avoid extravagance in 2012, the number of official dinner banquets have substantially decreased, which has hammered the catering industry into the ground this past year.
A number of restaurants, especially upscale establishments located in five-star hotels, lowered their dinner prices to attract more regular consumers by offering the New Year's Eve dinner at a price of 200 yuan (33 US dollars) per person.
Wu Jianqiu, vice president of Hong Kong Lao Shanghai Restaurant, says the feature of this year's family reunion dinner is going back to mass consumption.
"Our aim is to appeal to what is popular. We need to swallow our pride and lower ourselves to make more common dishes to attract the general public."
There's no "sky-high priced" New Year's Eve dinner option at all this time. Wu says this is the biggest change they've made for the coming year.
"Before the government's eight-point code to cut bureaucratic spending was released, we had medium and high-grade dinner reservations. But there have been no such reservations made since last year; we have not received a single reservation over 3000 yuan (500 US dollars)."
While New Year Eve's dinners will generally be more moderately priced, the Beijing Shang Hai Old Restaurant is offering two different meal packages made to be prepared at home.
The two packages, meant to feed a party of 10, consist of eight cold dishes, eight hot dishes and two desserts. The packages are priced at 980 and 1680 yuan, respectively.
Jin Liming, vice president of Beijing Shang Hai Old Restaurant says:
"These semi-finished dinner packages cost only half the price of dishes ordered in restaurants. Although we face the rising cost of raw ingredients, we did not increase our dish prices. These packages are selling well, and we have sold over one thousand boxes."
Offering fair-priced New Year reunion dinners is a rational move for China's catering industry to persevere through the market shift. Making delicious, affordable dishes for general consumption and providing good service will help catering companies sustain and, eventually, thrive.