China's first Pizza Hut opened today in Beijing and served 200 pizzas to an invitation-only crowd of Chinese and foreigners before running out of dough.
By mid-afternoon, the restaurant was turning away guests.
"We have to wait for the dough to rise, so it'll take about an hour," one waitress said. Other waitresses said there would be a two-hour wait.
Henry Foo, general manager of Beijing Pizza Corp. Ltd., which operates the outlet, said more guests turned up than expected.
The two-story, 180-seat restaurant expects to serve about 285 pizzas daily, mainly to foreign tourists and foreign residents of Beijing. Most Chinese have never eaten pizza, and many do not like cheese, which is alien to the Chinese diet.
Until now, pizza has been available only in a few joint-venture hotels in China, which do not allow free access to ordinary Chinese.
But company Chairman Jiang Tinzhi said the new Pizza Hut also hopes to attract Chinese customers. "Pizzas have been accepted by other Asian communities, and they will be accepted in China as well," he said.
"It's terrific. It's delicious," said 16-year-old Liu Mei, one of the first customers, who had never eaten a pizza before.
But some Chinese standing outside said the price was too high. The cost of a pizza is the equivalent of about $4.60.
"That's almost one-sixth of my (monthly) salary. I have to save before I can bring my 3-year-old son here to have a meal," one man said.
Beijing Pizza Corp. Ltd. is a $1-million joint venture between the Hong Kong-based AMIT Ltd., which holds 60%, and the Beijing International Business Services Corp. The partnership holds a 15-year franchise from the U.S.-based Pizza Hut chain, a subsidiary of PepsiCo Inc.
William Heinecke, vice chairman of the joint-venture company, predicted the restaurant will become profitable after three years.
Cheese, spices and tomato paste are being imported, and other ingredients will be bought locally, he said.