Restaurants are everywhere in China, but Chinese people are still spending time searching for a good place to eat. Nowadays, to make a difference and profit from this market, restaurants have to be smarter and take place in the O2O services (online-to-offline) trend in China. If you are looking for solutions to reach Chinese customers or to boost your business in China, take a look at our services.

Overview of the catering market in China

food beverage

In the first two months of 2018, the catering services industry has increased by 10,1% YoY. Eat outside has become a habit for the Chinese. Since they are often away from home they tend to eat out. Also, the growth of the Chinese middle-class has brought higher disposable incomes, allowing them to spend money leisurely at cafes, restaurants, cinemas, etc.

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Fancy restaurants and foreign foods are popular

The specialties from abroad are very appreciated by Chinese consumers. They believe more in their quality than in foods made in china. This mistrust is due to different scandals that happen is the country as the tainted milk scandal in 2008. Besides the research of quality, there is another trend in favor of foreign popularity among Chinese people. They also appreciate the idea of “authenticity”. Along with the growth of Chinese average revenue, consumers are seeking to live in a more comfortable way and to purchase new things. Foreign foods differ from Chinese’s local food and are attracting a lot of consumers.

Quality and appearance are important features

In this competitive market, restaurants have to pay more attention to their image. According to HKDTC Consulting, offering a unique taste and overall experience are both major selling points to attract Chinese customers. Also, good services and well-designed restaurants are very important for word-of-mouth. Now if you are confident about your restaurant’s quality, you also need to have the tools to market it in China or from abroad (if you are seeking to attract Chinese consumers). China is a very digitalized society where people spend a lot of time online: buying online, booking online, searching online… luckily surfing online can’t yet fill their stomach and they still have to eat. In order to reach these customers, you have to find your O2O (online-to-offline) strategy.

Digital marketing for restaurants

Online reputation

More than half of the Chinese population are now connected to the internet. Actually, China is the most digitalize society in the world. It is estimated that 9/10 Chinese netizens own a social media account. There has been a huge diversification of the services offered to Chinese customers. They can order online through delivery apps or through the restaurant’s own website if they don’t want to go out. Also, they have today the tool to compare, to choose and won’t just go out and try any restaurant. Before going to your restaurant, the Chinese will read the reviews and comments of other users.

Dianping: leading app for reviews in China

Among the many apps related to catering services, let us take a look at the most used: Dianping (with means review in English). Dianping has its mobile app and website and is often compared to the western counterpart Yelp. This application contains addresses and comments on restaurants. It allows getting general information such as the price, the place, the quality …. Chinese people rely a lot on it and use it as a landmark. One more time, it enables them to save time and optimize the result. We can also find on this application information about some abroad restaurants and their rating. It can be a tool for foreign catering businesses to attract Chinese tourists. As Chinese consumers are accustomed to this app, to be present in it will make their research easier.

Chinese Website and SEO optimization

Being present on review sites can boost your visibility and touch a bigger audience. To have your own website can enable you to put relevant and personalized information such as your menu, address, contact or social media QR codes. You can also add your restaurant’s own touch, by putting high-quality pictures or videos.  It also reassures the Chinese consumer about the quality and authenticity of your brand. It should absolutely be translated into Chinese as most Chinese people have a low level of proficiency in English. Despite significant government investment China still ranks 47th (out of 70 countries included) in the EF (education first) English Proficiency International Ranking. After you have a website, you have to get some Chinese visitors. The easiest and most natural way to look for information besides apps like Danping is by going through a Chinese search engine. The most used in China is Baidu, which has more than 80% of the market share. Using the right keywords and utilizing PPC and a general SEO strategy will help you to drive more traffic.

WeChat: the best partner of businesses

WeChat is the most used social network in China, it allows you to keep in touch with your consumers. It is primarily a communication app but it is offering a lot of useful features for brands and companies. It is possible to share information and news about your restaurant through a WeChat official account. WeChat is preferred because it allows consumers to comment and to be answered in a more convenient way. Our agency can help you to create and to manage your official account.

In conclusion, to eat outside or to order online became a custom, whether it is because of time constraints or for ease of use. This is, even more, the case in the cities because there is a lot of employees, often pushed by the fast pace of life. To launch your restaurant in China or to get known by Chinese consumers, you need to use digital marketing. Despite the huge potential in this sector, you have to manage the competition. We are a marketing agency specializing in the digital area, and we can guide you on your development in China. If you are interested, let us know your project or come to visit us in our offices in Shanghai.

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