Different Ranks of Foodservice Establishments in Ancient China2016-05-10 16:35:38Share:
Foodservice establishments with names ending with the Chinese character zhuang were the top-ranking in ancient china, not only in foods, but entertainment as well.
The form of entertainment provided was usually Beijing opera, and they always had long-term contracts with a Beijing opera troupe to perform onsite. Moreover, they also have long-term contracts with famous performers (such as national-treasure-class performers) to perform onsite, though not on a daily basis.
Zhuang did not accept any different customers on a walk-in basis, but instead, a group and ordered banquets by appointment, catering at customers’ homes or other locations at the site. Such catering was often for birthdays, marriages, funerals, promotions and other important celebrations and festivals.
When catering, they not only provided what was on the menu, but fulfilled customers’ requests.
Tang is similar with Zhuang, but the business of these second-class foodservice establishments were generally evenly divided among onsite banquet hosting and catering (at customers’ homes). They also have long-term contracts with Beijing opera troupes, but they did not have long-term contracts with famous performers. However, these top performers would still perform here occasionally. In terms of catering at sites, they only provided dishes strictly according to their menu.
Ting had more business in onsite banquet hosting than catering at customers’ homes. When hosting, entertainment was still provided, but they did not have long-term contracts with Beijing opera troupes, so that performers varied from time to time, and top performers usually did not perform here or at any lower-ranking foodservice establishments.
For catering, they were incapable of handling significant catering on their own, but generally had to combine resources with others to do the job.
Yuan did nearly all their business in hosting banquets onsite. Entertainment was not provided on a regular basis, but there were stages built onsite for Beijing opera performers. Instead of being hired by the previous three categories, performers at Yuan were usually contractors who paid the foodservice establishment to perform and split the earnings according to a certain percentage. Occasionally, they would be called upon to help cater at customers’ homes, and like ting, they could not do the job on their own.
Lou did the bulk of their business hosting banquets onsite by appointment. In addition, a smaller portion of the business was in serving different customers onsite on a walk-in basis. Occasionally, when catering at customers’ homes, they would only provide the few specialty dishes they were famous for.
Ju generally divided their business evenly into two areas: serving different customers onsite on a walk-in basis, and hosting banquets by appointment for customers who came as one group. Occasionally, when catering at the customers’ homes, they would only provide the few specialty dishes they were famous for, just like lou. However, unlike those establishments, which always cooked their specialty dishes on location, ju would either cook on location or simply bring the already-cooked food to the location.
Zhai were mainly in the business of serving different customers onsite on a walk-in basis, but a small portion of their income did come from hosting banquets by appointment for customers who came as one group. Just like ju, when catering at customers’ homes, they would also only provide the few specialty dishes they are famous for, but they would mostly bring the already-cooked dishes to the location, and would only cook on location occasionally.
Fang did not offer the service of hosting banquets made by appointment for customers who came as one group, but instead, often only offered to serve different customers onsite on a walk-in basis. This rank or lower would not be called upon to perform catering at the customers’ homes for special events.
Guan mainly served different customers onsite on a walk-in basis, and in addition, a portion of the income would be earned from selling to-goes.
Like all previous categories, Dian had their own place, but serving different customers to dine onsite on a walk-in basis only provided half of the overall income, while the other half came from selling to-goes.
Pu ranks next to the last in the category, and they were often named after the owners' last names, who had fixed spots of business for having their own places, but not as large as those belonging to the category of dian, and thus did not have tables, but only seats for customers. As a result, the bulk of the income of foodservice establishments of this category was from selling to-goes, while income earned from customers dining onsite only provided a small portion of the overall income.
Tan is the lowest ranking foodservice establishments without any tables, and selling to-goes was the only form of business. In addition to name the food stand after the owners’ last name or the food sold, these food stands were also often named after the owners’ nicknames.
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