Contemporary working-class individuals worry every day about what to eat. Nowadays, having a company cafeteria has become a new way of showing off wealth in the workplace. “State-owned enterprise cafeterias are incredibly cheap, one yuan for vegetarian stir-fry, two yuan for egg stir-fry, four yuan for a large portion of meat.” “In big companies, meals are free. I gained ten kilograms in a month. Can I consider it as a work injury?” Paid meal enthusiasts reveal their “arrogance” in just a few words.
Meanwhile, urban white-collar workers without company cafeterias can only search nearby tirelessly for the “light of working-class people” — a work meal that offers a suitable mix of meat and vegetables, quick service, filling portions, and affordability.
However, at some point, affordable Chinese fast food also became “unattainable” for working-class individuals. Many people remember Chinese fast food restaurants located on the streets as having narrow, old storefronts, dim lighting, and greasy tables.
Nowadays, these establishments have entered spacious and bright shopping centers, creating a clean and cozy atmosphere for lunchtime. They have even developed hundreds of chain stores, undergoing a glamorous transformation. However, along with the upgraded decor, their prices have also increased. On social media platforms, many people complain about the “assassin-like” fast food, such as someone grumbling about paying nine yuan for a bowl of vegetarian dish, while others jokingly call themselves “great unjust souls” since they can’t satisfy their hunger with thirty or forty yuan:
An ordinary fast food restaurant, but with a clean environment. The prices are indicated but not clear, with vegetarian dishes generally priced at nine yuan. Limited menu, and the store isn’t big. It’s the first time I’ve had such expensive Chinese fast food. I hope it will extend my lifespan.
Chinese fast food restaurants have become unreasonably expensive. Paying thirty or forty yuan for a few dishes, three yuan for chicken soup, and four yuan for stir-fried chicken. Is this really a chain store? I don’t understand this price range. I won’t dare to go there again in the future. It’s really a disappointment, a great unjust soul speaking.
In fact, the expectations of working-class individuals for a meal are not very high. Our traditional dietary habits mainly focus on a balance of meat and vegetables, with a soup and a staple food. However, eating a meal at a chain fast food restaurant according to these standards is not cheap.
We have selected five top Chinese fast food chains, including “Laoxiang Chicken” and “Dami Xiansheng,” and compiled the price levels of their “recommended dishes by consumers” and “restaurant signature dishes.” According to the standards of one meat dish, one vegetable dish, one soup, and one rice, it costs an average of 40 yuan to have a meal in a first-tier city.
The classic “Winter Mushroom Chicken Thigh Combo” from Real Kung Fu has increased to 42 yuan. The slightly cheaper Dami Xiansheng charges 28 yuan for ordering Kung Pao Chicken and Stir-fried Eggs with Grandma’s Vegetables. Including rice and soup, the total comes to 36 yuan.
So much so that many people jest, “With a monthly salary of 20,000 yuan, I dare not order three meat dishes at Laoxiang Chicken.”