Recently, some Beijing subway stations have installed vending machines selling prepared meals: sheep intestine soup (yangzatang) and sweet corn, priced RMB 12 and 9 respectively.
A number of Chinese food manufacturers and restaurants have already developed vending machines for prepared meals and this is the next step in the process of relieving busy Chinese office workers from work in the kitchen.
Recently, a reporter from Beijing Business Daily found that yellow prepared meal vending machines had appeared in many Beijing subway stations such as Shilihe Station. On the machines, you can see texts like: “DT Canteen”, “breakfast and dinner are here”, “take away from work in the morning, heat up and eat in the office”, “take away after work at night, prepare breakfast for the next day”, etc. It is not difficult to see its intention is to target office workers and hope to solve their needs of breakfast and dinner meals.
The reporter learned that among the products sold, sheep intestine soup is a DT Canteen’s own brand product. By the end of April, DT Canteen had put a total of 10 retail cabinets in Guomao, Shuangjing, Shilihe and other subway stations in Beijing.
According to Sun Wei, the head of Jilin Wanlongjia Technology Co., Ltd., the operator of DT Canteen, vending machines that provide drinks in the subway are more common, but not many provide meals. In order to cooperate with the subway’s strategy and meet the living needs of office workers and other subway customers through the promotion and sales of pre-made dishes, Jilin Wanlongjia Technology Co., Ltd. launched a new brand DT Canteen suitable for subways.
Regarding the future development plan, Sun Wei revealed that DT Canteen will introduce prepared dishes of major local cuisines, celebrity chefs, and well-known food brands. In addition to the subway scene, DT Canteen signed a cooperation agreement with Huazhu Group, and plans to enter into its youth apartment brand “Chengjia Apartment” in May 2023 to roll out the prefabricated meal there.
Wang Peng, a researcher at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, believes that with the rapid development of the prepared meal market, competition is becoming more and more fierce, and there are problems such as homogenization. We can expect more developments in the near future.
The sheep intestine soup is an interesting choice for the first batch of prepared meals offered through vending machines in Beijing subway stations. Beijingers are in general not so keen on mutton, with the exception of the traditional Mongolian Hot Pot (shuanyangrou) a fondue with thinly sliced mutton. Perhaps DT Canteen expects that many domestic imigrants, many of whom are Muslims, will buy this product.
Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success