For a slice in the
Maggie Lu , Shanghai Star. 2001-03-15
Legend has it that it was Marco Polo who
invented the pizza when he tried to make a Chinese meat pie
back home. However no meat pie shop in China has as many
customers standing in line outside waiting to be seated every
day as does Pizza Hut. The boom of pizza also invite several
Jack Liu, president of the US-based
"IT'S ridiculous to
see so many people waiting outside the Pizza Hut every day,"
said Hazel Li, a local media executive. "Is it really so
delicious that it is worth wasting time to queue
Most of those who find
it worth standing in line for are young people keen to try new
"I felt nothing
special after the first time I tried pizza and I seldom go to
pizza restaurants," said Song Mei, a high school
She said Chinese
dumplings and other dim sums are much better than pizza, and
they are cheaper, too.
Compared to the US,
where more than 80 per cent of young people are fond of pizza,
the number of pizza enthusiasts in China is fairly
To most Chinese, Pizza
Hut has been synonymous with the Western snack since the brand
entered the country in 1990. The first outlet in Shanghai was
opened in 1995.
When a young woman
sought the telephone number of "Mister Pizza" through the 114
hot line, the staff asked "Is it a shop belonging to the Pizza
It can probably be
said that Pizza Hut has helped Chinese know the famous Italian
Although Pizza Hut
outlets are considered fast food restaurants in Western
countries, they were settled as "lounge restaurants" in
and clean decors and good services contrast sharply with the
noisy McDonald's and KFC restaurants.
"It's a good place to
have a date for lovers because it's more elegant than ordinary
restaurants and cheaper than the high-level ones," Song
President of Pizza
Hut, Michael Rawlings, recently came to Shanghai in order to
find out the secret of the company's success in the local
"Maybe our success in
China was due to the fact that it's a novelty to the people,
but the low price and high quality are certainly the main
factors," Rawlings said.
He said the profit
margin for Pizza Hut in China holds at 10 per
"Sales in the country
are excellent, even better than in the United States in some
sense," he added.
"In the US, we have
the main competitor Domino Pizza in delivery services," said
Peter Kao, general manager with the Shanghai Pizza Hut Co Ltd.
"And we are facing an adjustment of taste to meet the demands
of the younger generation after developing more than 40 years
in the country."
To attract more local
customers, Pizza Hut is trying to adjust the taste to meet the
fondness of Chinese.
"We chose domestic
ingredients which are more acceptable to local customers
although the cooking method is the same as in the US," Kao
However, the baking
process has been standardized to maintain the quality in all
the chain stores and to raise efficiency.
"Every step in the
process has a set standard of time and different people are
responsible for different steps," he said.
in this trade is not so fierce as that between the McDonald's
and KFC, some newly born pizza shops such as Melrose Pizza
& Cafe and Gino Cafe are eyeing the market. However,
sources from Melrose and Gino admit they can't compete with
Pizza Hut yet.
"We are at the growing
stage, while Pizza Hut has matured," said Jack Liu, sales
manager of Melrose, a brand created by an American and a local
partner two years ago.
Melrose, which has
opened seven outlets in the city, offers American-style pizza,
while the Taiwan-based Gino stakes its claim as Italian
"Since Pizza Hut is a
worldwide brand, its main goal is to dominate the market
through great investment in locations, decor and advertising,
rather than bring in profits," Liu said. "We focus on profits
in every outlet with small investment."
Melrose sets its eyes
on expatriates in the city at the very beginning and 90 per
cent of its customers are foreigners. Now it has turned its
attention to local people.
maintain a strict American flavour and do not change according
to the local taste.
"We want to show
Shanghai people the pure flavour of pizza," Liu said. "Since
the prime cost of Pizza Hut is higher in China, their pizzas
are more expensive than those in the US."
To compete with Pizza
Hut, the Melrose has lowered the prices of pizzas that
correspond to those made in Pizza Hut.
Meanwhile, the prices
of those kinds that Pizza Hut doesn't have are high, about 80
yuan ($9.6) for one, in order to catch real pizza
However, the Gino
Cafe, which has nine outlets in the city, competes with Pizza
Hut as a "lounge restaurant."
"We offer many other
choices besides the genuine Italian pizzas," said Li Minghai,
a manager of the Gino Cafe.
It still keeps the
tradition that one chef handles the whole pizza-making
process, which is better than the assembly-line product,
according to Li.
This brand is more
popular among foreigners and white collar workers, even with
prices that are higher than Pizza Hut.
Facing the growing
competitors, Kao expressed great confidence in Pizza
"Pizza Hut will still
be tops in a market we have known well," Kao