Article by XIANEASE
This new series will highlight an essential app or other technology that will help to make your life better while living in China. Though several of these will require a minor knowledge of Chinese to navigate, it is possible to get through with just a rudimentary understanding of the language.
Do you have a Chinese friend that constantly seems to be posting picture of new restaurants and delicious food, all while being on a very modest salary? Sometimes you begin to wonder whether they have a secret second job that somehow allows them to pay for this clear extravagance. While there may be some side dealings going on, most likely they are fishing for discounts and other specials through an app known as 大众点评 DaZhong Dianping or just 点评 Dianping.
Dazhong Dianping is a web site that was founded in 2010, and has since developed into an app. After merging with Meituan in 2016, it has rapidly become the largest review and group buying website in China. They also can have food delivered to your home via the Meituan app (They are the guys on bike wearing yellow that nearly run you over every day). Essentially, Dazhong Dianping functions similar to Yelp, in that they provide user reviews, and Groupon, in that you can get discounts and other benefits at various restaurants.
So, once you have downloaded the app via your preferred method, you will be faced with this:
First thing that you will want to do is make sure that the app is set to Xi’an (西安): (You can also use this while traveling to discover new restaurants in and outside of China)
Then you will want to find a restaurant. There are several ways to do this. First, you can search the restaurant name, if you know the Chinese for it. Some restaurants will have their English name listed as well, but not always. Also ensure that you have the right location, as coupons typically only work at specific outlets. You can also search by restaurant type, area, location, or you can use the map.
Once you have found the correct restaurant, you can then start to take a look at information about the restaurant. Each restaurant is scored out of 5 stars, going to the hundredth of a star. The number directly next to that one indicates the number of people that have given a ranking, and then the average cost per person. Directly below this are three numbers, ranking flavor, environment, and service; respectively. Below that you can view pictures of the food and the restaurant itself; both those provided by the restaurant and those of customers. Below that are the operating hours and address of the restaurant. Clicking on the address will take you to a map to the restaurant of your choice. (Baidu maps tends to be the most accurate inside of China). Next to the address is a phone symbol that will help you directly dial the restaurant. (Obviously, you will need to speak Chinese to do that in the majority of cases.)
Next we get to one of the more useful bits of the app. 优惠 (youhui) stands for Coupon, and will provide you with various discounts. Some will be discount coupons that you can buy, such as the current Tube Station Deal which lets you buy a RMB 100 coupon for RMB 79, effectively giving you RMB 21 off of your meal. There are some conditions for the use of coupons at some restaurants. For example, you may only be able to use one coupon per order or only be able to use coupons at certain times. The conditions are listed below the coupon, but require a moderate level of Chinese to read. You can always ask the staff if the coupon currently applies.
Another type of discount that can be applied is to check out (买单) through the Dianping app. This will typically apply a discount to the entire meal. 9.5折 means that you will pay 95% of the total price, or in other words, get 5% off.
The final type of discount is a set meal that is determined by the restaurant. Typically these sets will contain many of the restaurants most popular dishes. This requires a decent knowledge of Chinese, but you can sometimes save hundreds of RMB on certain meals by using this option. Also, the names of some dishes at trendier restaurants may still confuse you, as they try to give clever names that don’t translate well. The contents of these set meals usually cannot be exchanged for other things, so you will have to take what you get when ordering them.
The next tab on the menu after 优惠 is 菜品 (caiping) which will show you the most recommended dishes at the restaurant, including photographs that should help illuminate some of the more opaque names. The next tab 点评, after which the site is named, is where you will find the reviews. These will require a high level of Chinese in order to interpret. However this is also where you can find user-generated photos, which may help you get a better understanding of what the restaurant actually delivers.
Despite the fact that this article focuses mainly on the restaurant aspect of Dazhong Dianping, there are many more types of spots that are included. Bars, movie tickets, hotels, entrance tickets, and so much more. In a place where the prices seems to raise on the regular, this app can help you explore new restaurants, while still keeping things affordable.
Did you enjoy this article or find it useful? Do you have any other suggestions for essential apps for living in China or just something that you’d like use to explain? Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and they might be featured in our next issue.