Pizza Hut is Posh! Fast Food in China

Looking for a place to celebrate a birthday party or an engagement? Maybe you even need a venue for a wedding party. Why not go to Pizza Hut, where the “McDonalds is always nicer abroad” maxim is taken to another level. While I didn’t dine in a Pizza Hut, it was impossible not to notice the sleek tables and trendy interior design at some of the many restaurant locations in Shanghai.

I’m not just imagining the possibility of a Pizza Hut wedding–my friend and host Tania who lives and teaches English in Shanghai has a friend who celebrated the big day with some personal pan pizzas. In Xian, another teacher I met had students who celebrated their engagement at McDonald’s. Admittedly, these fast food venues are almost entirely different in terms of interior design.

I do find it interesting, however, that during a time when anti-americanism is very high, the demand for American fast food seems to be rising exponentially. I’ve yet to see a McDonald’s that isn’t busy. On my map of Beijing, McDonalds are used as landmarks–I counted 68 in total. In Shanghai I felt like Starbucks was following me around. At the Yiyuan gardens, there was a line of 20 people out the door.

I guess the idea that people are able to distinguish between government policy and the general population also applies to business. In my opinion, I would rather have the hole-in-the-wall noodle restaurant than a McDonald’s selling Red Bean Pie. Or an independently owned tea shop instead of yet another Starbucks.

Alas, things change and nowhere is it harder to hold on to the past than in a place like Shanghai. I just hope the next time I visit I will be able to buy a plateful of dumplings on the side of the road instead of a Big Mac.

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