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Beijing to 'Rate' Western Food
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Beijing will introduce a rating system for its Western-style restaurants, bakeries, bars, and cafes by the end of the year to help diners make more informed choices.

The majority of the city's Western restaurants will be awarded between three and five stars based on a set of standards compiled recently by the Beijing Western Food Association, its secretary-general Xu Bin said.

The ratings will consider not only if the food is authentic, but also reflect standards of service, hygiene, and management.

"This move aims to improve Beijing's Western food services in a short period of time. It is a wonderful opportunity that the 2008 Olympic Games has provided," she said. 

Currently, Beijing has more than 3,000 Western dining establishments providing food from 27 countries and regions.

Unfortunately, the food served in many of Beijing's foreign restaurants does not taste authentic.
"I have been to a number of French restaurants in Beijing, but only a small number of them are okay, most are not genuine," said a Beijing-based Frenchman who asked not to be named in an interview with the Travel Channel.

In response to the problem, the association has made a concerted effort over recent years to train its cooks and managers.

Xu said the association last year organized a Western food expo and cooking contests, and would hold similar events this year. In addition, famous foreign chefs and restaurant managers will be invited to give lectures in Beijing, she said.

Last November the association sent a number of its chefs to train in the United States, France, and Italy. It aims to have 10,000 chefs capable of cooking Western food by the year 2008.

Beijing is expected to receive at least 500,000 foreign visitors during the Olympic Games. As part of its preparations, the association last year published a bilingual guide to Western dining, which includes the names and addresses of nearly 2,000 restaurants and bars.

In addition to the guide, "the rating system will make it easier for people to make their selection," a woman surnamed Yu, who works in Beijing's Central Business District, said.

(China Daily March 20, 2007)

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