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Creating A Restaurant Ordering System For A Chinese Business

This week we’re delving into the topic of ordering food online in China. You may be thinking. “Erm, isn’t it the same as anywhere else, but in another language?” – A reasonable question for most countries, but this is China. From personal experience of extensive travel and living in many countries, I can confirm that China is one of the most unique mixes that you’ll find on this planet.

Combining a mindblowing culture with a unique economic scenario is what makes modern China so utterly different. It requires a certain amount of insight and attention to get to the bottom of it. So here we go….

Ordering Food For Delivery In China

Unlike other countries with a higher salary floor for delivery riders, China jumped into the online food order + delivery market very quickly. (As a side note the logistics industry in China is surprisingly developed compared to the UK for example.)

With a wide range of choice, the convenience of online or app payment, cheap delivery costs (as low as $0.46), and coupons offered by the strongly competing online food delivery providers make delivery a popular dining option. In 2016 alone the value of meals ordered online was $25bn and, with the current rate of growth, it will reach above $36bn in 2018.

Mobile payments and delivery constitute a massive 45% of the income of the local restaurant giant Yum China (exclusive operator of Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken (“KFC”), and Taco Bell).


Even though the number of people ordering food online grows, the income from customers eating out in the restaurants themselves remains high —  in 2016 Chinese consumers spent $507 billion dining out. These figures are partly due to increased affluence, growing openness to new trends, and partially to growing urbanisation. With 76% of Chinese families predicted to reach the middle-class level in 2022, there is still huge potential for growth here.

With the hot-pot being the most popular dish (22% of the market share), there is little wonder the prosperous Chinese hot-pot chain Haidilao grew an appetite for foreign markets and even recently opened a branch in Silicon Valley.

Why Ordering In A Chinese Restaurant Is Different

As I mentioned, a Chinese restaurant is a slightly different beast to what you might expect (and not just because of the language!)

Menus displayed via tablet are a common feature in a Chinese restaurant — they allow you to quickly browse through the options and select the order without the involvement of a waiter – yes, we mean that you are given a tablet instead of a regular menu. This saves not just printing paper, but also the waiters’ time, and ensures a speedy service. There exists a separate market for restaurant apps to support this service.

Chinese customers are used to handling a bulk of their daily needs through WeChat, and food delivery is no different. WeChat owner Tencent has backed Meituan, so a natural progression is to use the platform for online food ordering. But WeChat can also be used for payments in restaurants themselves. WeChat in China is as common as Facebook in the USA, with the addition that over 200 million people in China now have WeChat Wallet which allows instant transfer of funds inside the WeChat ecosystem. (In China you can buy noodles on the street by scanning a WeChat QR code!)

As the mobile penetration and tech savviness increases, online food ordering apps are also enjoying a heyday. So, if an iPad menu is too much for your liking, you can simply stay at home and get yourself a delivery or “waimai”.

How To Take Payments

With so many tools to choose from, ordering food online in China is a breeze. WooCommerce makes menus look clean and ordered — view simple menu subsections and clearly listed prices. The menu display is fully customisable and can include allergy information as well as pictures of the dishes. The best part is the fact that it plugs seamlessly into your WordPress website. (Woocommerce is now owned by Automattic which is the creator of WordPress, this simply means that WooCommerce is well supported and will only get stronger in the future ). With WordPress powering over 25% of the internet and Woocommerce being the WordPress payment system of choice, they are a solid combination in any e-payment solution.

To order, just select how many portions of a particular dish you want and choose add to cart. The most obvious tool for something like this is WooCommerce Product Table. The plugin allows you to select the preferred delivery option and adjust the price based on the selection (collection vs. delivery, and depending on the zone of). In addition, you can pick a convenient time slot, to be sure the food arrives when you want it! With WooCommerce you can even leave a tip!!

Things To Consider For The Ordering System

When setting up a restaurant business in China you will need to have both sit in and delivery options. For online delivery, you will be included in the directories of the most popular apps, but you can also have your own ordering and delivery service to control pricing, save on app fees, and offer exclusive offers.

You will need to consider taking payments from Alipay and WeChat. This is not difficult, and both can be done inside the Woocommerce payments ecosystem.

If you are unaware of the unavoidable impact that WeChat has on life inside China then you should make time to read our comprehensive series of posts on aspects such as setting up a WeChat shop and opening accounts on WeChat.

If China marketing is feeling like a minefield to you, then hit us with some questions on how things tick in the PRC. We’d love to hear any questions you might have on topics such as websites, marketing, WeChat right through to logistics and payments. Drop us a message..!

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