Fast food in a Chinese provincial city: a comparative analysis
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More than a decade ago American fast food entered the Chinese market. Since then the number of fast food and organized chain restaurants in China has multiplied. Chinese consumers, especially those who live in large urban areas, have accepted Western-style fast food restaurants that serve French fries and other popular dishes as a way of life. Inspired by the success of the symbolism of McDonald's and KFC, many Chinese restaurants have tried to use traditional Chinese culture to lure customers into what is advertised as indigenous, modern fast food outlets. Recently some Chinese fast food entrepreneurs have successfully developed local versions of the Western fast food system. Based on my three months?? ethnographic research in Huai??an, I address the competitive situation between American fast food restaurants and local Chinese restaurants by examining service, price, management, food, and customer expectations. Specifically, this case analysis includes one of the largest American fast food chains and one of the largest Chinese fast food restaurant chains. The data are based on participant observation, informal and formal interviews, a sample survey, and historical documents. The study finds that in Huai??an, one local Chinese fast food restaurant, after improving d??cor, hygiene and service, has experienced increasing success in the local market. I show that the globalization process has experienced two types of localization in Huai??an. First, Western chains have striven to adapt to the consumers in Huai??an, by insisting on a high degree of local ownership and by modestly tailoring their products to local taste. Second, the mere presence of these Western chains has encouraged Chinese entrepreneurs to develop decidedly local versions of modern fast food enterprises.