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China’s First Fast Food Restaurant

Not KFC or McDonald’s, but Yili was China’s very first fast food restaurant.

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Not KFC or McDonald’s, but Yili was China’s very first fast food restaurant. Its opening in 1984 became the talk of the day.

It was April 20 1984, when China’s first western-style fast food restaurant opened its doors in Beijing’s Xidan central area. Beijing vice mayor Zhang Baifa personally came to cut the ribbon of ‘Yili’s Fast Food Shop’ (义利快餐厅).

It was the news of the day. Beijing Evening News reported that “China’s first western fast food restaurant” was now officially opened, and foreign journalists wrote that this was “the next step in China’s reform and open-door policy”. The 150 square metre restaurant was soon full with people coming from all places who wanted to try hamburgers, ham sandwiches and coffee – and experience something ‘foreign’ in Beijing.

The Yili brand was already established in 1906 by Scottish businessman James Neil. The management was taken over by China in the 1940s. Amongst other products they made the famous Yili Bread, which has now become a time-honored Beijing brand.

Although the 1984 restaurant was the first in China, there had already been a fast food truck in Beijing in 1982, as pictured above.

About the day that he first visited Yili, Xinhua-affiliated media researcher Zheng Dejin is quoted in ‘China Remembers’ (2014): “It was the day after the opening, and soft music played while the air-conditioning blew in cool air (..) On the right side, there was a big mirror that made the place seem even bigger.” He also remembers the toilet: “There was a hot-air-blower that would dry your hands within a minute.” The staff used electronic calculators to quickly process customer’s orders (Chen 2014, 159).

Although Yili was successful, it was soon overshadowed by the arrival of Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1987 and McDonald’s in 1990. The Yili restaurant was demolished in 2002.

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China’s first McDonald’s, that opened in Shenzhen on October 8, 1990.
 

Fast Food in China, an overview:
1984 – Yili Fast Food: the first western-style fast food restaurant opens in Beijing.
1987 – The first Kentucky Fried Chicken opens its doors in Qianmen, Beijing.
1990 – The first McDonald’s of China begins business in Shenzhen.
1992 – Beijing’s Wangfujing shopping area sees the opening of the biggest McDonald’s in the world.
1996 – Kentucky Fried Chicken celebrates the opening of its 100th store.
2000 – McDonald’s sees its 340th store in mainland China, KFC its 400th.
2014 – McDonalds has over 2000 stores in China, whereas KFC has more than 4000.

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The inside of the Wangfujing McDonald’s in 1992.
 

Sources:
– Chen Boyuan. “Century-old bread mill confident in differentiation strategy.” China.org, September 29. http://china.org.cn/business/2014-09/29/content_33648336.htm [16.9.15].
– Chen Yu (ed). 2014. 中国生活记忆 [‘China Remembers’, ‘Memories From Chinese Lives’]. Beijing: Zhongguo Qinggongye Chubanshe.
– Jinan Times.”麦当劳肯德基深陷过期肉事件 中式快餐欲逆袭.” 2014. Jinan Times, August 3. http://www.hibor.com.cn/ecodetail_2377883.html [16.9.15].
Images:
http://www.jingcity.com/food/news/201303/70432.html

By Manya Koetse

©2015 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Food & Drinks

Another Hotpot Controversy: Famous Food Critic Wants Hotpot Gone

Hotpot discussions are getting heated.

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One of China’s most famous food critics would rather see hotpot disappear, but hundreds of Chinese netizens do not agree at all.

After a hotpot restaurant became top trending on Weibo yesterday for recruiting ‘Ivy League’ graduates as waiters, another hotpot controversy has hit Chinese social media.

This time, the renowned Hong Kong food critic and cookbook writer Chua Lam (蔡瀾, Cai Lan) has stirred discussions among Chinese netizens over comments he made during an appearance on the Hunan TV talk show Day Day Up (天天向上/Tiantian Shangtian), SupChina and The Guardian reported on January 3rd.

When asked by one of the hosts of the show what dishes he would love to see disappear from the world, Chua answered: hotpot.

“Hotpot is the cooking style that lacks culture the most,” the food critic added: “You just throw the ingredients in there, there’s nothing tasty about it.” Because the hotpot allegedly has no cultural significance and because the cooking style is so easy, the critic suggested it might as well disappear altogether.

Chua Lam is a popular personality on social media. On his Weibo account, he has more than ten million fans.

Read the full story at Hotpot Ambassador here.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Food & Drinks

Hotpot Restaurant with High Standards Goes Viral: Waiters Required to Have ‘Ivy League’ Diploma

Top-notch hotpot restaurant asks for top-notch waiters – stirring controversy online.

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Marketing stunt or serious job requirement? This new Zhengzhou hotpot restaurant, that seeks to recruit ten ‘Ivy League’ graduates as waiters, has become the talk of the day on Chinese social media.

The job announcement of a new Chinese hotpot restaurant has gone viral on Weibo, as the new establishment requires that persons who apply to work as a server to have a degree at a “985” (‘Ivy League’) university.

The job requirements of the restaurant, which is located in Zhengzhou, Henan province, started attracting online attention on December 30. By January 2nd, the hashtag ‘Hotpot Restaurant Requires 985 Diploma in Recruiting Waiters’ (#火锅店招服务员要求985#) had received over 290 million views (!) on Sina Weibo.

Some Weibo netizens said the recruitment announcement was an “insult” to those who have graduated from one of China’s top universities, while others denounced the hotpot restaurant for purposely building hype to drive more customers to the new establishment.

“What does being a ‘985’ graduate have to do with being a waiter?”, one popular comment said: “To be kind-hearted and responsible is what matters.” Others sarcastically comment that home delivery staff might be required to hold a PhD degree in the future.

The so-called “985 Project” was launched in 1998 by former President Jiang Zemin at the 100th anniversary of Peking University on May 4th of that year (985 refers to 1998, May). It was meant to raise the number of (internationally recognized) first-rate universities within China. China’s ‘985’ universities include, among others, Fudan University, Peking University, and Tsinghua.

The job announcement of the new Zhengzhou hotpot restaurant does not completely come out of the blue. The restaurant itself is also called “985 Hotpot College” (985火锅学院), and its outside appearance seems to be themed around the ‘985’ idea.

The restaurant’s job advertisement states that the establishment is looking to recruit ten graduates between the ages of 20 and 30. The annual salary is approximately 200,000 RMB (±US$29,000), which is almost 2,5 times more than the local average pay and up to 8 times more than what waiters in Zhengzhou usually make, according to this Beijing Evening News article.

On January 2nd, the restaurant responded to all the commotion its job advertisement has caused, saying that “every person and organization has the right to pursue their dreams” and that they were hoping to find the right talents to “grow [the business] together.”

Despite the fact that hundreds of netizens condemn the restaurant’s call for ‘Ivy League’ waiters, there are also those who do not see a problem: “The business has the freedom to choose their own standards, and graduates also have the freedom to apply there or not,” some write.

Hotpot restaurants are incredibly popular and common in China. The ubiquity leads to hotpot establishments becoming more and more competitive. In recent years, ‘themed’ hotpot restaurants have popped up like mushrooms in China’s bigger cities, trying to attract customers with their unique concepts, such as revolution-themed hot pot restaurants, robot-themed hotpot places, or even classroom-themed hotpot.

The “985 Hotpot College” will have its highly educated waiters as a unique selling point. Whether or not their hot pot is tasty or not, however, is still unsure – despite the recent hype around the restaurant, its Dianping rating page is still awfully empty.

Want to know more about hotpot? Visit our sister site Hotpotambassador.com here.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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