By Kim Young-gyo
HONG KONG/BEIJING, Dec. 18 (Yonhap) -- Beijing, China's capital for the past 850 years and a burgeoning international metropolis, has also become a favorite destination for gourmets.
The political, economic, cultural and educational center of the world's most populous country offers not only the best of the Chinese cuisines, but also a wide array of global food selections.
In a bid to tap the much-coveted market, CJ Foodville Corp., South Korea's largest restaurant franchise, has thrown down the gauntlet to Chinese and foreign competitors, vowing to delight Chinese consumers with its culinary pleasures.
In Beijing's northeastern residential district of Lido, widely known for its exposure to foreign culture, CJ Foodville has recently set up its multi-restaurant cultural space called CJ Food World.
CJ Food World acts as the flagship store for dozens of other CJ Foodville franchise stores operating across China, creating a place where customers can experience different aspects of dining-out from a cafe, bakery and restaurant to a cooking studio.
It is the first installment of CJ Food World outside South Korea, housing CJ Foodville's four different brands -- premium steakhouse VIPS, global Korean food brand Bibigo, organic bakery TOUS les JOURS and trendy cafe Twosome Coffee -- in one place.
"South Korea was first introduced with the concept of casual dining in 1992, when a U.S. brand restaurant launched in Seoul," Gwak Kyu-do, head of CJ Foodville's China operation, told Yonhap News Agency. "In twenty years, we were able to export Korean homegrown restaurant brands to China."
The consumer food service industry in China has experienced rapid growth in recent years.
Economic growth, accelerating urbanization, increasing disposable income and changing consumption patterns have led to substantial growth in the consumer food service market in China.
According to the Euromonitor Report, the Chinese consumer food service market grew from 1.39 trillion yuan in 2006 to 2.26 trillion yuan in 2010, representing a compound annual growth rate of 13 percent during the five-year period.
The market size is expected to reach 3.72 trillion by 2015, representing an annual growth rate of 9.9 percent from 2011.
AlixPartners LLP, a global business-advisory firm, earlier predicted foreign restaurants will experience further growth in China, as they are estimated to make up only 1 to 2 percent of the Chinese eating-out market, with fast-food chains such as KFC, McDonald's and Pizza Hut being a major presence there.
Increasing frequency of dining out for business, family and social gatherings can be witnessed in China, thanks to expanding affluence and the faster pace of life.
While the AlixPartners survey found that Chinese consumers still prefer Chinese-style dining overall, more young adults in China spend their dining out expenditures in non-Chinese restaurants, citing a cleaner atmosphere and better service.
Following the success of the first CJ Food World in China, CJ Foodville has agreed with SOHO China Ltd., Beijing's largest property developer, to open a larger one in Qianmen, the capital's most popular commercial district.
The opening of the new CJ Food World, which is to take place in early 2013, will generate a significant lift in the company's brand awareness among Beijing consumers, CJ Foodville officials said.
In a separate move, CJ Foodville will speed up the expansion of its high-end steakhouse VIPS, starting from the northern part of China, under the partnership with state-run food processing and logistics firm Beijing Capital Agribusiness Group.
The Chinese firm, also known as Sunlon, has experience of working with U.S. franchises such as KFC and McDonald's, CJ officials said.
CJ Foodville plans to set up some 20 VIPS restaurants in China by 2013, aiming at 100 by 2017.
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