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Chinese Restaurants Abroad

by Charles F. Tang with Robert Goldberg Goldberg

Chinese Restaurant General Information

Winter Volume: 1996 Issue: 3(4) page(s): 13 and 23

Recently in Taiwan, a worldwide survey of overseas Chinese restaurants was completed. Primarily, it investigated this industry in Europe, with a few comments made about those in the United States (USA), as well. The results are fascinating and Flavor and Fortune readers can learn about them because I have translated some of the material and Mr. Goldberg and your editor have helped make my English more acceptable. The information is shared herewith for your pleasure, with thanks also to the magazine and to other sources.

You might be interested to know that the method of data collection was to send survey report forms to Taiwan government agents in fifty-seven countries. The findings, thereafter, were published in the Taiwanese magazine Overseas Trader’s Monthly. A summary of the results follows:

Of the twenty-three thousand they called 'Oriental' restaurants in the USA, ninety percent were actually Chinese restaurants. The Chinese restaurants had annual sales of more than six billion US dollars; that is lots of cash spent on Chinese restaurant food consumption, both eat-in and take-out. Chinese food is one of the three most popular cuisines in the United States; the other two are Italian and Mexican (and to date no information has been located on amounts spent for these other most popular cuisines).

This survey reported that one and thw-thirds million Chinese are people living in the USA. Almost half of that number are involved in the restaurant industry in one form or another. With the exception of China itself, they also reported that the USA has the largest Chinese population in the world. Did you know that the first USA Chinese Chop Suey Restaurant opened in 1850. With a mere two hundred years of history, one hundred forty-six years is a long time for one ethnic cuisine to arrive, survive, and flourish.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, there was a large migration of Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan to Canada. This influx resulted in the growth of the Chinese restaurant industry there. According to research conducted by a Chinese Restaurant Association in Ontario, there were, during a comparable time period, three thousand one hundred and six Chinese restaurants in Ontario and one hundred and fifty in Ottawa. Some of these were small, some had only take-out.

In an earlier issue of Flavor and Fortune there was a report about and review of a Canadian self-service buffet restaurant, part of a chain of places. It seated more than five hundred diners at one sitting. This huge place can and does feed many more that a thousand customers on each weekend day, less of course on each day during the week.

The bulk of the survey reported on the Chinese restaurant industry in Europe where six hundred thousand Chinese immigrants and their offspring reside on the western-most countries. What follows is a country-by-country breakdown of restaurants in most European countries.

There are two and a half thousand Chinese restaurants in the Netherlands. Most of them were in Amsterdam, The Hague, and in Rotterdam. Price and quality were moderate ore moderately expensive compared to Chinese restaurants in other European countries.

Ninety-five percent of the twelve thousand Chinese living in Belgium were engaged in the restaurant industry. Most of the one thousand Chinese restaurants there were family-style eateries.

An estimated one hundred fifty thousand Chinese people live in France. Of the more than three thousand Chinese restaurants in that country, half were located in Paris, ninety percent in the restaurant business. The one and a half thousand Chinese restaurants in England were divided into two categories, full-service and fast food (some of the latter offering fish and chips and Chinese take-out combined).

There are about one quarter of a million Chinese people in England; most came from Hong Kong, ninety percent of them are in the restaurant business. The fifteen hundred Chinese restaurants in England were dived into two categories, full-service and fast food (some of the latter offering fish and chips and Chinese take-out combined).

Most of the Chinese people in Ireland were also engaged in Chinese restaurant businesses. Of the two hundred restaurants there, most were small and they served Cantonese cuisine, for the most part.

About one hundred thousand Chinese people reside in Germany. In this country eighty percent were in the Chinese restaurant industry or in a related business. Two thousand Chinese restaurants were scattered throughout the country, three hudred in Hamburg, close to four hundred in Berlin, and about one thousand in the Eastern states. Approximately seventy percent of these restaurants were reported to be mom-and pop-style places. In this part of Europe, Chinese restaurants served various regional cuisines including Cantonese, Sichuan, Hunan, and Chekiang style foods.

Twelve thousand Chinese people live in Austria. In Vienna, they reported locating four hundred of the five hundred thirty Chinese restaurants. The Chinese population in Switzerland numbered six and a half thousand and most of them serviced the six hundred Chinese restaurants in that country. There were about thirty Chinese restaurants in Geneva, twenty in Zurich, and the rest scattered in other towns and cities. A large number were small and operated by Chinese immigrants from Vietnam.

The great majority of Chinese people in Hungary were also in the restaurant industry. It was reported that almost all fo the seventy Chinese restaurants in this country were, at the time of this survey, operated by new immigrants from China, not from Hong Kong, Taiwan or elsewhere. Most Chinese restaurants in Hungary served family-style and most cooked their food Sichuan-style.

Almost all of the four hundred twenty Chinese people living in Poland immigrated from China, Hong Kong or Macao. For reasons unclear, Chinese food was reported to be unpopular in Poland. Some conjecture may be because of unfamiliarity with Chinese cuisine, it may be related to the lack of discretionary money for restaurant dining. In all of Poland, at the time of this survey there were only five Chinese restaurants; every one of them was in Warsaw.

The two hundred thirty Chinese people living in Greece operated about fifty Chinese restaurants. Most of the eateries reported were in Athens; a few were scattered in the islands. Almost every one of the latter group only operated during the summer months. According to Greek law, all workers must be Greek-born with the exception of master chefs. This ruling may be why they advised it very difficult to find a good Chinese chef in Greece.

In Italy, the Chinese restaurant industry had expanded rapidly. There were about nine hundred fifty Chinese restaurants at the time of the survey. Most were located in Rome and Milan. Of the two hundred reported to be in Milan, the majority were owned by people from the Chekiang Province.

The survey reported two thousand Chinese people in Spain. The restaurants there were mostly mom-and-pop operations owned by people from Chin-Tien, Chekiang, and Fu Chu. About eight hundred Chinese restaurants were located in Madrid and suburban areas, about one hundred in Barcelona, and the remaining were mostly scattered in tourists areas and on the islands.

Most of the Chinese people in Norway, as in many other European countries, were involved in the restaurant industry. The approximately fifty restaurants in this Scandinavian country included small as well as upscale operations. They served a lot of modified Chinese cuisine to suit the tastes of the local people.

There were about three hundred twenty Chinese people in Finland, almost all involved in the Chinese restaurant business. They served mostly Cantonese cuisine in small Chinese restaurants.

Leaving Europe and traveling quite far afield, the survey advised that there were a total of eight thousand and two hundred Chinese-operated restaurants in Australia. Most were Chinese restaurants but a growing number served western-style food. Because of low profitability, few of the Chinese eateries were take out restaurants.

As I learn of other surveys, I will keep you informed of growth and changes in the Chinese restaurant scene in the USa, in Europe, and elsewhere. Should you learn of others, I hope you’ll advise and allow me to share it with Flavor and Fortune readers.

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