The impact of Chinese food in the New Zealand community: A study of Chinese food in Meadowlands, Howick, Auckland

Chiu, Yin Ping
Steele, Robert
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Master in International Hospitality Management
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Auckland University of Technology

Since the 1990s New Zealand has experienced significant growth in its population of Chinese people. The largest city, Auckland, has been the place of choice for the majority of these new immigrants to make their new homes. These people have brought with them their culture and in particular their food culture. Prior to 1990, most New Zealanders’ knowledge and exposure to Chinese food was through the popular Chinese takeaway, of which at least one could be found in even the smallest towns. In New Zealand, and in particular in Auckland, the significant growth of the Chinese population has also been accompanied by a significant increase in Chinese restaurants and food outlets. We now know that the cuisine from such outlets is not a true indication or example of the rich variety of the eight major cuisines found throughout the regions of China. New Zealanders in general are not aware of the principles behind the choices of cuisine known as Yin and Yang and how they influence the taste and presentation of the dishes. Also they do not recognize their powerful contribution to health and well being. In addition there are many other aspects of the Chinese food culture which contrast with that of New Zealand. The styles of restaurant decor, the utensils, the principles of shared dishes, family dining, and the beverages that accompany Chinese cooking are just some examples.

This study has been conducted to find out what impact this growth of Chinese food culture has had on the Non-Asian New Zealand community. The study examines the expectation of this new cuisine amongst Non-Asian New Zealanders, the amount of influence it has, and if there has been any change in Non-Asian New Zealanders’ eating habits and styles as a result. The study includes the Chinese restaurant owners themselves and examines their motivation for opening these businesses, their opinions of the worth of the Non-Asian New Zealanders to their business, and what strategies they employed thus far to attract customers. For the purposes of the study a research sample was taken in the Meadowlands area of East Auckland, an area that has a prominent Asian community. The main methodology applied in the research was a questionnaire issued to 19 restaurant owners and 50 Non-Asian New Zealanders who dined there.

The study examines the ways in which Non-Asian New Zealanders were introduced to the restaurants surveyed, what their impression was of the cuisine and of the whole dining experience. This includes their opinions on the food served, and the communications and conditions in the restaurants themselves. The study found that Non-Asian New Zealanders in general were enthusiastic about this new style of cuisine and in fact it was having an influence. For example, forty percent of the Non-Asian New Zealanders surveyed dined in Chinese restaurants at least once a month. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed said that Chinese food had influenced their eating habits. Seventy-eight percent wanted the Chinese restaurants to keep their food authentic. The study also found that little had been done by the restaurant owners to attract these people, although they did value their custom and would like to have more. Overall this meant that there is a significant opportunity for the Chinese restaurant owners to increase their market share of the Non-Asian New Zealand diners.

The research was able to show clear areas in which the owners could make changes that would assist them to attract and retain the above mentioned market segment. For example, keeping the restaurant clean, improving the restaurants’ decorations; having waiters/waitresses who speak English. Finally, an example marketing plan is provided. This plan includes a more descriptive menu with English language included, improving staff language skills, enhancing the restaurant’s atmosphere and an effective promotion campaign to increase sales.

Restaurants -- New Zealand -- Auckland , Cooking , Chinese
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