Beijing, in a bid to impress visitors during the 2008 Olympic Games, is planning a cross-city cornucopia featuring traditional Chinese fare as well as cuisine from around the world.
"We have this goal to make Beijing China's capital of delicacies and a world foods showcase," said Gong Li, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Commercial Committee.
"Restaurants are among the most profitable businesses in Beijing. But only high-quality establishments with distinctive characteristics deserve to remain in this international metropolis to-be."
Statistics from the commercial committee indicate the number of restaurants in Beijing has been increasing at an average annual rate of 20.3 percent over the past two decades. There were nearly 40,000 such enterprises by the end of last year, employing about 230,000 workers.
Among them were traditional Chinese restaurants offering famous dishes like the roast duck of Quanjude and the hot-pot mutton of Donglaishun, plus popular western eateries such as McDonald's and TGI Friday's from the United States and Maxim's Restaurant from France.
But there is still a lot of room for development in the lucrative market, estimated to be worth about 24 billion yuan (US$2.89 billion), Gong said, adding: "Especially considering the huge number of tourists that will visit Beijing in 2008."
About 5 million foreign guests, along with 120 million domestic visitors, are expected to descend upon Beijing in 2008 for the Olympic Games.
Therefore, the commercial committee plans to introduce dozens more famous foreign and domestic food enterprises into Beijing in the near future.
Key development areas, such as Zhongguancun -- the so-called Silicon Valley of China -- the central business district, the central finance district and the Beijing Economical-Technological Development Area, will be the first areas to host the newcomers.
Meanwhile, the commercial committee will give more support to the development of traditional Beijing dishes, focusing on the restoration of some that have been long forgotten.
As the erstwhile capital of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, Beijing is famous for its imperial dishes. Unfortunately, many of them are now only found in history books.
But later this month the first batch of traditional Beijing dish providers will be selected. They will enjoy government support, either in the form of cash or preferential policies.
The latest achievement along these lines was the renovation of the well-known "Gui (Ghost) Street," the nickname for a section of Dongzhimennei Dajie. The avenue got the nickname because most of its restaurants are open all night.
(China Daily September 12, 2002)