New Year-eve dinner reservations, pre-cooked meal orders surge
Shanghai is witnessing a flood of dinner reservations and orders for pre-cooked meals for nianyefan, or the Chinese New Year's Eve family feast.
With the "reunion dinner" being one of the most important Chinese traditions, the booking for tables at restaurants for New Year's Eve began as early as November of 2022, with demand especially high for private rooms, according to the city's Commission of Commerce. However, nearly a half of the dine-in pre-orders were subsequently cancelled amid a shocking surge in coronavirus infections in December.
Now as the impact of the pandemic gradually recedes, the rebooking rate has rapidly increased, with more than 80 percent of New Year's Eve dining tables at restaurants reserved. The Lunar New Year falls on Sunday.
Also, the pandemic had to some extent changed the way people celebrated over the past few years, with pre-made cuisine becoming known to a wider public. Especially, the pre-cooked dishes of time-honored catering brands have been increasingly popular, resulting in booming sales.
According to preliminary statistics from the Shanghai Restaurants Cuisine Association, the supply of pre-cooked dishes for New Year's Eve dinner this year increased by nearly 20 percent compared with the same period last year.
In terms of prices, despite the obvious rise in the cost of ingredients this year, the pre-cooked meals by major catering brands in Shanghai are still sold at basically the same price as last year.
For example, Xing Hua Lou Restaurant launched six classic sets, ranging from 238 yuan (US$35.2) to 888 yuan, three special sets between 198 yuan and 398 yuan, eight casual sets (118-268 yuan) and six frozen convenient sets (198-698 yuan).
Sunya Cantonese Restaurant sells three warm pot sets at between 388 yuan and 888 yuan, eight packages of deli food priced from 288 yuan to 698 yuan, and a steak gift box at 328 yuan.
The average price of New Year's Eve dinner at restaurants, meanwhile, is slightly higher than a year earlier.
Catering enterprises are also making efforts to guarantee the supply of high-quality food and services.
Old restaurant brands such as Lu Bo Lang, Sunya Cantonese Restaurant and Xing Hua Lou Restaurant, as well as popular chains such as Heji Xiaocai Restaurant, Harvest Festival Group and Jardin de Jade, are trying to motivate more employees to stay in Shanghai during the Spring Festival and offer better services by providing bonuses and holding activities and parties.
These brands also launched the New Year's Eve dinner semi-prepared food packages for takeaway orders with various discount offers.