Shanghai is unlike any other city in the eastern part of the world. Home to approximately 30 million people, it is a constantly changing environment, where much of the population is competing to make money, especially the city’s restaurateurs. Emilia Shi, senior partner of Dentons Shanghai office, offers her insight on Shanghai’s fast-moving and diverse hospitality sector


When it comes to local food, visitors will find decent outlets less than 100 meters away, irrespective of their location. The number of small, independent stores in Shanghai, otherwise known as mom and pop shops, is vast, equaling, if not exceeding, New York City’s offerings. Some estimates suggest the number could even be double that found in the Big Apple. This is a major plus, as local Chinese food remains popular with Shanghai’s citizens, and these mom and pop shops generally serve the best quality cuisine for the price. The list of places with name recognition serving great Chinese food and favored by locals includes The Grandma’s, known for its Hangzhou style food, and Jesse, which is a Shanghai original, famous for its Xiefen potato soup and Shaoxing wine-marinated crab. Shanghai locals are also huge lovers of crayfish, so much so that there is an entire street, named Shouning Rd, with nothing but crayfish restaurants on it.

International food to fit any mood

Many Chinese people have a negative opinion of Western-style food, viewing much of it as too sweet or fattening. However, for the more adventurous locals and the tourists making their way through Shanghai, there are plenty of great Western-style restaurants to choose from, including both chains and non-chain outlets. Leading the way as a destination famous for showcasing a variety of food options from different cultures is the French Concession. Don’t be misled by the name, however, this must-visit area for foodies is home to

an abundance of restaurants offering diverse cuisine options, including the famous Cantina Agave (Mexican) and Bella Napoli (Italian). Shanghai has also found itself caught up in a craze for bread in recent years, leading to the opening of several artisan bakeries, such as the excellent Bread, which is also located in the French Concession. Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Nanjing Rd has welcomed some well-known names since the beginning of the year, including one outlet each for American Bistro chain Hard Rock Café
and New York City’s famous Joe’s Pizza.
Technology halts brick and mortar retail
While the food industry in Shanghai might be booming, the news has not been so good for the retail sector, which is bearing the brunt of the rise and rise of delivery apps.

Online ordering has taken the city by storm

In Shanghai, customers can order anything they fancy through a variety of apps, like Taobao - which is similar to Amazon - and, the go-to food delivery app that delivers from almost any business selling food and drink. Much of the time, these apps will waive delivery fees in a bid to secure repeat business. The philosophy among locals is, why leave the house when everything can be delivered free of charge? This massive rise in using theinternet to buy goods and services has forced many businesses in Shanghai to make their products available online or face closure from a lack of both

 revenue and footfall. Many smaller malls and stores have shut down during the last five years, having failed to adapt and change. However, another new trend that is taking Shanghai and wider China by storm could help to stem the flow somewhat.
Sharebike is a movement, which encourages people living in and visiting China to get around its cities by hopping on a bike for a small fee. Under the system, the cycles are easily accessible, lined up along most streets and color-coded by operator. Users can unlock the bike via smartphone, with fees ranging from between one and five yuan (USD 0.08 – 0.15) for half an hour’s use, significantly cheaper than traveling on the metro (four yuan) or by taxi (20 – 40 yuan). Once done riding, users can drop off the bike and relock it. Two firms have the lion’s share (70 percent) of the Sharebike business: Ofo, whose cycles are yellow, and Mobike (orange). Given cycling’s health benefits and suitability for city life, alongside Sharebike’s affordability, the system may well help efforts to revive retail footfall.

A call for new hotels

When it comes to the city’s hotel business, the hottest new thing is the Shanghai Disney Resort, which opened in June 2016 and serves the trademark Disneyland Park. The resort currently consists of two hotels - the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the Toy Story Hotel - offering 420 and 800 rooms respectively. Located near the new Disneytown, an area within the confines of the resort that has extensive retail shopping, dining and entertainment facilities, both hotels are extremely popular and usually booked up well in advance. Plans to build two more parks within the resort are in the pipeline, which will pave the way for many more hotels.

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