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Zhongqing-style hot pot meets its challenge from Western fast food

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Since the 90s, McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and other Western fast food franchises have quickly invaded the food market in Mainland China, posing an alarming threat to the Chinese food industry there. Yet, Zhongqing-style hot pot restaurants have not only survived this foreign food invasion, but over time have gained new ground.

In 23 provinces, there are presently over 600 reputable Zhongqing-style hot pot food chains. Some of them have opened chain restaurants in the U.S. and other countries. In Zhongqing City alone, there are over 1,000 hot pot restaurants, which employ over 10,000 workers total, and have an annual business budget of 3 billion Chinese yuan.

One Zhongqing-style hot pot food service manager indicated that a major problem that the Chinese restaurant industry faces is its lack of standardized, simplified products. This is because Chinese food relies more on the individual chef’s style and skills, causing Chinese food to be unable to compete with Western fast food on a large scale.

Zhongqing-style hot pot is known for its spicy bite. It first gained popularity in the 19th century, as food for people who worked on the river ports. These workers took out inexpensive animals’ organs and boiled them together with various spices, sitting and dining around the hot pot in a circle. Later, people began to select different food, such as seafood, beef, pork, chicken, and lamb, to cook in the hot pot, and the requirements for spices have become increasingly particular. Traveling to China without tasting Zhongqing-style hot pot food, some Chinese may argue, would be like visiting the U.S. without trying barbecued chicken.

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