Chinese culture and tradition place a great deal of emphasis on food. Far beyond simply fulfilling a need, eating is considered to be a focal point in each day. However, people are living in a much faster society now they do not have time to slowly enjoy their food while chatting, especially during lunchtime. The fast food market also grows with the affluence of the Chinese people.
As recently as 1993, Chinese consumers had few fast food choices. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) pioneered the way, arriving here in 1987 and won a great triumph by taking its first-mover advantage. Quickly seeing KFC’s success in the market, others like Pizza Hut and McDonald’s followed suit. McDonald’s, KFC’s primary competitor, opened its first Chinese store in early 1990s. As China increasingly embraces the outside world and its snack food, foreign fast food chains are kicking off a high-speed expansion in the world’s biggest market. The well-known brands also include Japan’s Mos Burger and Ajsen Noodles, and Gino’s.
As famous foreign fast food restaurants quickly established their presence in China, foreign style foods, such as fried chicken, hamburgers and French fries, began to pose a challenge to China’s locally produced fast foods such as soybean milk and fried bread sticks. Witnessing the sudden explosion of foreign fast food chain restaurants here, Chinese customers quickly began to adapt to the new "exotic" menus. However, these "junk foods" have long been challenged by Chinese health experts as lacking in balanced nutrition. The image of KFC became terrible as the public was in fears of contamination from a food coloring, Sudan I, which could cause cancer.
In fact, China has many of her own traditional fast food dishes. Of these, steamed buns, dumplings, fried bread sticks, and noodles are the most common and popular, with big-name chains like New Asia Snack, Yonghe King, Daniang Dumpling, GII Wonton, and Babi Steamed Buns. With local players still trying to compete with the likes of KFC, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut, competition is fierce. In Shanghai, other than the expected McDonald’s and KFC, you will find a large number of these Chinese fast food chains, which at a glance, may look like classic western fast food chain stores, but they are actually traditional Chinese snack restaurants with a very western look.
The number and diversity of fast food restaurants across China has mushroomed in the past several years with no end in sight. Box lunch is also an ideal choice of office workers and students. Some fast food chains offer a delivery service to capitalize on an emerging generation of Chinese yuppies who want to stay home or at workplace.