China's online catering sector is continuing to expand quickly as more than 300 million meals are expected to be ordered online this year, according a recent industry forecast.
The country's take-out business will account for more than 10 percent of the catering industry's total retail revenue by 2020, said Jiang Junxian, head of the China Cuisine Association.
In 2016, a total of 256 million meals were ordered online, up 22.5 percent from 2015, he revealed at an industry conference on online catering.
The market size of China's take-out business exceeded 160 billion yuan (about 23.49 billion U.S. dollars) in 2016, up 33 percent year on year, Jiang said.
Besides regular meals, the Chinese are increasingly interested in other types of online catering services such as late-night snacks and afternoon tea.
Last year, transaction volumes for these two types of services jumped more than three-fold on Ele.me, one of the country's largest online catering platforms, much higher than the growth in lunch and dinner orders.
The thriving online business has also brought vitality to the country's traditional catering sector. For Jinbaiwan, a chain restaurant famous for Peking duck and Chinese cuisine in Beijing, take-out business is now contributing a daily revenue of nearly 800,000 yuan, or 40 percent of its total turnover.
Facing the brisk growth of the online catering sector, Jiang said food safety was always of top priority, which required close cooperation between caterers and delivery providers.
He also called for more smart technology and fine arrangements for delivery service to ensure healthy and sustained development in the sector.