Go to contents

The reason why Chinese restaurants are on decline in the U.S.

The reason why Chinese restaurants are on decline in the U.S.

Posted December. 27, 2019 07:53,   

Updated December. 27, 2019 07:53


One out of 10 restaurants in San Francisco, which has the oldest Chinatown in the U.S., was Chinese just five years ago. This year the number shrank to 0.88 out of 10 restaurants.

Chinese restaurants symbolized Asian immigrants who tirelessly worked. There was even a saying that only Chinese restaurants opened on Christmas when most shops closed. But they started to fade away in the generational change. A reduction in the number of Chinese restaurants is analyzed to be due to the change in the immigrant society such as retirement of the first generation immigrants and their children advanced into other high-paying lines of work.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the ratio of Chinese restaurants on Yelp, an American restaurant review website, among all restaurants in 20 big cities including New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington D.C. decreased to 6.5% this year from 7.3% in 2014. The number of Chinese restaurants decreased by 1,200 while the number of restaurants in the 20 cities increased by 15,000.

This does not mean Americans lost their interest in Chinese food. Chinese restaurants on Yelp had the ratio of page views and average scores. In the meantime, the ratio of other Asian restaurants such as Korean, Indian and Vietnam stayed at the same level or increased.

Many Chinese immigrants left their country for the U.S. looking for freedom and opportunities after the Cultural Revolution in 1966. They opened a restaurant to make living because they did not speak the language or have skills. Their enthusiasm to give their children more opportunities finally paid off.

According to the census from 2015 to 2019, the first-generation Chinese immigrants ran a restaurant the most. The second-generation immigrants worked in computer services and dentistry the most. The first-generation immigrants worked in restaurants, but their children have high-paying jobs such as consultants and physicians. “The first-generation immigrants lost their economic status as they left their country, but their children are regaining it,” said sociology professor Jennifer Lee at Columbia University.

Yong Park parky@donga.com