Zhang Shiyao, president of the China Cooking Association answers question for Sanlian Shenghuo Zhoukan (Sanlian Life Weekly), about the rise and development of the catering industry.
Sanlian: In the last 20 years, the catering sector in China has grown more rapidly than the national GDP. Can you explain why?
Zhang Shiyao: Last year, the catering sector grew at a rate of 16 percent, and accounts for one eighth of the total volume of social retail sales with a turnover exceeding 500 billion yuan (US$60. 4 billion). The change is connected to the social economic environment that is in a period of transition. In other words, catering sector development mirrors economic growth. It is an important growth industry in today’s economy.
Sanlian: We have noticed that when you mentioned catering sector development, you used the term ‘strategic’ to describe the approach. What do you mean by the term?
Zhang Shiyao: Eating has always played a key role in Chinese culture. The late Chinese state leader Mao Zedong said that eating is the most important thing. Deng Xiaoping, the initiator of China’ reform and opening policies, also took ‘Wenbao’ or ‘Eating Well’ as the first of his three strategies. However, the meaning of eating that we discuss here is different from before. From production and circulation to consumption, catering involves many aspects. So the improvement of catering promotes the inter-related development between production, circulation and consumption.
Sanlian: As the volume of business grows, the employment potential and numbers grow.
Zhang Shiyao: The sector is not just about domestic expansion but a means of social employment and re-employment. It requires very varied personnel from the restaurant manager to the waiter to the dishwasher.
Sanlian: How many laid-off workers would benefit from the developments in the catering sector?
Zhang Shiyao: The statistics were made public at a forum last year. There are currently over 3.5 million catering networks in China providing 18 million jobs. Calculations confirm that as the market is so big, it could still provide 1.6 million more jobs. The China Cooking Association gives priority to the issue of re-employing redundant workers.
Sanlian: What does the future look like for the Chinese catering industry?
Zhang Shiyao: The aim is to modernize the industry. The objective is to improve the standards of the existing modern catering industry and to introduce, train and educate the Chinese more about scientific and healthy dietic practices of an affluent society.
(China.org.cn translated by Li Xiao, February 19, 2002)