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2022-09-14 10:50:14

Diners in Shanghai will be able to see their meals being prepared live from the restaurant kitchen on their phone screens.

The city’s market watchdog on Tuesday asked restaurants to livestream what goes on in the kitchen in an attempt to alleviate mounting food safety concerns from consumers. Shanghai plans to build 1,000 “demonstration restaurants” by the end of this year as part of its campaign to make the food and beverage industry more transparent to consumers.

The Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Market Supervision said the move will enable consumers to monitor various health and sanitation issues, including the freshness of the food being ordered. Consumers can watch livestreams on major food delivery apps such as Meituan and Ele.me, though the rule isn’t mandatory for restaurants. 

A screenshot from a kitchen livestreaming video at a restaurant in Shanghai, Sept. 9, 2022. From @上海发布 on Weibo

A screenshot from a kitchen livestreaming video at a restaurant in Shanghai, Sept. 9, 2022. From @上海发布 on Weibo

As many Chinese become increasingly reliant on takeouts amid busy work schedules and an eagerness for convenience, they’ve also become more sensitive toward food safety following a series of scandals involving popular food chains such as Pizza Hut and Starbucks. Food safety topped the list of Chinese consumers’ complaints in the first half of 2022.

“More transparency for takeout foods would make it a lot easier for me to make decisions,” said Ding Zhe, a 40-year-old algorithmist who is too busy to cook. “I’m concerned about the health of my 6-year-old daughter who constantly eats takeout food.”

China’s food delivery industry was worth over 934 billion yuan ($134 billion) in 2021, which included the country’s 4.7 trillion yuan catering market. The online penetration for food delivery stood at 19.9% last year, up from 16.9% in 2020, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. 

Shanghai’s effort to boost kitchen livestreams follows similar moves by other cities, including neighboring Hangzhou. The city claimed that 93% of restaurants in its scenic Xihu District currently offered livestreams from kitchens. 

Those working in the food industry said while livestreams would be a good idea for ensuring food safety, not everyone would benefit from them.

“Good sanitary conditions in the kitchen will mean more orders,” Niu Niu, founder of the rice noodle restaurant chain Maoniudao, told Sixth Tone. “But what about those who sell pre-cooked meals? Will you still buy from these restaurants after finding out the cooks only warm up frozen food packages before handing them to the delivery man?”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A screenshot from a kitchen livestreaming video at a restaurant in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, July 3, 2022. From Weibo)