One of the most iconic aspects of the streets in China is the various types of delicious local snacks that can be accessed easily on nearly every corner. For many years, China has been famous for its street food, something that hasn’t really been comparable to anything in the western world until recently with food trucks coming into prominence. This is a growing trend perpetuated by success in the US and in the UK where trucks are converted into mobile restaurants. The big question is will this concept work in China?
The existing popularity of street food in China does not mean it will be plain sailing for the food truck industry. For one, the street food stands are usually a lot cheaper than food trucks, which also offer affordable meals but tend to be “good value for what they are”. This has large links with the second difference; the target market. Street food in China is wallet friendly and it attracts customers of all classes. However, this new flurry of food trucks is aimed primarily at the upper class and a meal is usually a similar price to eating out at a nice restaurant. The final difference is their mobility. One key factor to the success of the food trucks is that they aren’t fixed to one spot, if there is a lull in the area they are based in or a big event happening somewhere nearby, they can up and leave at their will, while street food stands tend to be fixed to one location.
Social media plays a crucial role in the success of these food truck businesses. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are usually the primary mediums for informing the public about their locations. Customers can also “share” their experiences to help promote these companies. This is where the largest adaptation would have to come in order for this concept to succeed in the Asian market. China’s largest messaging app WeChat – (Wēixìn – 微信)boasts a subscription feature, from which most of the updating would have to be done. With over 500 million users, it is definitely an effective social media tool that can at least compete with those in the west.
The other key factor is the vastly different cultures between the East and the West. Chinese food etiquette, for a long time, has been based around dining in a place with a nice looking exterior. Part of the experience here is showing (off to) your friends how much of a nice meal you have had. This may be a concern to the food truck companies as their best selling point is certainly the great tasting food as opposed to the exterior of the establishment. However, given that Chinese people love to share pictures of their food on social media, if they do go to these trucks and like the food, the pictures will most likely be shared at such a rapid rate that it would surely mean success for the company.
This being said, Chinese dining culture has changed in recent years with a growing number of people in big cities seeking out smaller, “alternative” places to eat and drink. A few food trucks have recently emerged in Hong Kong and it looks like it’s just a matter of time before they spread north. Of course, there are also legal aspects that need addressing before the transition can be successfully adjusted, however this probably wouldn’t be too much of an issue. With the way Chinese culture is developing and the massive power behind the social media apps, there is a definite potential for food trucks to come to China and change the perception of “street food” altogether.