Catering services in China - statistics & facts

The Chinese catering market has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with total catering revenue dropping by 16.6 percent to 3.95 trillion yuan in 2020 (around 605 billion U.S. dollars). However, Covid-19 has also accelerated the restructuring of the industry and the development of new business models. Online food delivery has grown strongly against the general market trend and the growth of chain stores has been gaining momentum. Total catering market revenue is forecasted to slightly outpace pre-pandemic figures in 2021, and the market will most likely continue growing at high pace in the following years.

Booming online services

With the advanced development of online-to-offline (O2O) services, catering services are becoming more closely connected with the Internet. In 2020, nearly 420 million people used online food delivery in China. Instead of paying with cash, consumers can easily pay by scanning the QR code in restaurants and street food hawkers as well. Diners can read the menu and order the food through the restaurant apps while they are waiting for a table online. Food delivery services are not only booming due to the pandemic, but also because of low logistic costs and a decreasing interest in cooking at home. Besides consumer behavior changes, more and more catering providers utilize a smart management system based on big data, which help them better understand consumers’ preferences and make changes accordingly.

Growing chain restaurant market

Chain operation had become the fastest expanding business model for the catering industry in the country. In 2019, the revenue generated from larger catering chain stores reached 223 billion yuan. Yum China is one of the largest national full-service restaurant operators in China with over 10,500 outlets in 2020. It is the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell operated in the country, as well as all East Dawning and Little Sheep restaurants. Other prominent local players include the time-honored brand Quanjude, which is famous for its Beijing roast duck, hot pot chains like Haidilao and its imminent rival Xiabu Xiabu. After its huge success in China, Haidilao opened its first restaurant in London in April 2019, which attracted long queues of enthusiastic diners.

In addition to dominant Chinese cuisines, foreign catering brands are also sharing this fast-growing market. In 1987, the first KFC restaurant in China was opened near Tian’anmen square in Beijing. After 40 years, KFC had nearly 7,200 restaurants in China and is still expanding. Foreign café brands like Starbucks are gaining popularity in China, although drinking coffee does not belong to the traditional Chinese lifestyle. Besides, Japanese cuisine is particularly popular among the Chinese younger generations, and Ajisen China is one of the beloved Japanese casual dining style brands.


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