Why are most oversea Vietnamese business people in Europe running their restaurants under the name Chinese restaurant?

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Vietnamese are always proud of Vietnamese food and cuisine, for instance: Pho, Banh Mì. But why are most oversea Vietnamese business people in Europe running their restaurants under the name 'Chinese restaurant'? Why do they pretend to be Chinese?

asked in Food, Cuisine Culture by

12 Answers

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Businesses are operated for profits, so businesses’ owners, of course try to maximize their potential legally and reasonably. Due to more population of oversea Chinese vs Vietnamese combined similar cultures, eventually Vietnamese businesses ’owners do just that. Will you open your business for minimum profit while you have more potentials for more profits??? Your answer alone would meet the fact regarding to your interests…Thx for reading.

Supplemental: Not just only in Europe but also all over the world..

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In the US there are many Vietnamese restaurants in most cities, clearly advertised as Vietnamese restaurants, never seen one pretended to be Chinese restaurants.

There are Vietnamese restaurants with hybrid Vietnamese and Hakka billings, own and run by ethnic Chinese Vietnamese, staff speak Vietnamese and Chinese.

Now it is very common the other way around, Chinese run many Japanese and Thai restaurants, most customers never knew it. On my last Paris visit, all the Japanese restaurants I saw in the Latin district are own and run by Chinese.

My Chinese restaurant owner friends have good reasons, Japanese and Thai prices are higher, less materials needed, also less competition.

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The question is not fair to the Vietnamese. A restaurant run by B people is quite a universal phenomenon. Just yesterday I ate in a Japanese restaurant in Shenzhen, China, run by Chinese. In Taipei, there are quite a number of top notch Japanese restaurants run by local people (i.e., Chinese). In China, foreign restaurants, including most Vietnamese restaurants, are mostly owned and run by Chinese. Unfortunately, I have not yet found a Vietnamese restaurant in China that makes Pho comparable to this one in Hanoi.

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Because Europeans still have a limited, often juvenile, idea of Asia.

That’s pretty much it.

In France, a lot of restaurants got labelled as Thai….but they were really southeast asian mixed with Chinese or Teochew Chinese food.

That’s how they marketed themselves as Thai, because that’s what worked with the locals.

Sometimes you will see some Youtia (friend dough sticks) in each table, because that’s what the French like. Some Teochew food is paired with fried dough sticks but not everything is.

This was back in 2007 when I visited France. Not sure if things changed, but tbh Europe moves very slow. It feels like a time capsule of at times…like some parts feels like it got stuck in the 80s/90s….(when I went at that time).

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Probably they are run by ethnic Chinese. There is nothing wrong with that. You can call that culture appropriation and it is great. However, if you are ever in a restaurant that offers all you can eat sushi, it is run by Chinese and I highly recommend your going elsewhere for sushi.

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I think it is for marketing purposes. Up to this day the name Vietnam is associated with the war and the victory of the pro-communist forces. That's not a good image for a business.

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I will answer your two “why”(s).

To your first “why” : why do they run their restaurants in Europe under the name of “Chinese restaurant”. Clarity is, there are some restaurants like that, but not common enough to find it in anywhere of Europe, for if you offer me a mission to hunt down this type of “Chinese restaurants” in Europe, it spend an amount of efforts, maybe I could easily miss it even if it was just locally right next to me, but if you ask me to find you any Vietnamese restaurants that are named as Vietnamese cuisines, I can easily find you any.

So why are there Vietnamese restaurants that are named as “Chinese restaurants”? For the sake of business, you need to attract people via utilizing their ignorance; it has been the case that the word “China” refers to not only 中國but an ambiguous giant region in the Far East, this was NOT a dictionary usage, but it was how people make assumption on the terminology, and with that assumption, any things which have to do with Mongolic Asian (East Asian and south East Asian) , are grouped under the labels of “China” and “Chinese”. So, it has been the case for people to associate the word “Chinese/China” with the foods(and other cultural elements)that are originated from the Far East. In reality, it is quite a common to find an Asian restaurant in the West(not only Europe) , which names itself as Thai restaurant, Vietnamese cuisine, and even particularly “ Phnom Penh beef noodle soup”, in other word, your “why” is relied on an inaccurate bias.

To the second “why” : they don’t pretend to be Chinese , your “why” is invalid. If the restaurant naming is a sign of identity pretending, then it was so easy for me to find some Chinese who pretends to be Vietnamese. I’ve come across some of these restaurants in at least Vancouver and Toronto in Canada, which are though operated by Chinese but yet selling Pho, Vietnamese coffee and Gỏi cuốn etc. these Chinese are not even the Cantonese from Saigon, they don’t speak a single word of Vietnamese. If you want to deny my claim of experience, so can I do the same toward your European claim. The funny one I encountered in about 2 years ago, in Richmond BC Canada, there’s a “越南牛肉粉” shop , all employees staff are mandarin speakers with the up north accent, the “Er” sound was way deep and thus unavoidable; maybe I would considers a chance that their kitchen is still occupied by Cantonese from Vietnam, or the boss behind the scene is a Cantonese from Saigon. The point is, I wouldn’t be silly enough to say that these Chinese are pretending to be Kinh people.

And about restaurants naming, here’s another scenario to explain it, maybe it doesn’t happen in Europe yet, but it happens often in California, something like this:

a mainland Chinese youth who’s second generation rich (富二代), on either a green card or F1 visa, driving fancy cars and cashing things without a manner , he also bought a famous “Chinese restaurant”(Mongolian BBQ+ WOK) from someone, due to his dad’s command(you got to do something !) , but he is too dumb and couldn’t maintain it, eventually , a Vietnamese business man bought it from him with an offering of extremely low amount. This Vietnamese man is now keeping a famous restaurant in town, and he also decide to keep the original naming, for the sake of it’s reputation, and there are new items on the food menu, which are Pho and Banh Min.

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It’s all about business, NOT cuisine. Chinese tourist is the biggest number in Europe, that is there target customer. Vietnamese owner is very smart!

There are certainly Vietnamese cuisine restaurant, but not for tourist, but for local people instead.

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Not familiar with Europe, but I will talk about America.

I was posted to work in the US many years ago. I lived in Orange County, CA, not far from Little Saigon. There were plenty of restaurants serving Vietnamese food.

But I also came across a few restaurants which served both Chinese and Vietnamese food.

As pointed out in other answers, many of the Vietnamese in the US are of ethnic Hoa (Chinese). It's no surprise that they open restaurants which serve what we call Chinese American food.

(Just like Vietnamese, Chinese from Mainland China are very proud of their cuisines. But Chinese American food is different from what you would find in China.)

There is another explanation: restaurant owners do not always work in the kitchen. Instead, they hire cooks. There are more cooks who are familiar with Chinese American food. After all, there are more ethnic Chinese than ethnic Vietnamese in America, and Chinese American food has far longer history.

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I don't know which European countries you want to mention here but where I live, in Paris - France, this is the opposite. Everyone in France, especially in Paris, people all knows in District 13 and Belleville area, there are many Asian restaurants, most of them are Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian restaurants (on the other hand, most of Korean and Japanese restaurants are in Pyramides area, District 2).

Vietnamese restaurants with Chinese names are usually operated by Vietnamese-Chinese, but the number of restaurants like this is not many. Most Vietnamese restaurants have Vietnamese names with Latin alphabets. A lot of times I eat at Asian restaurants that my wife and I have found through recommendation from our friends. Most Chinese restaurants here, besides the Chinese foods, I also find a lot of Vietnamese dishes like phở, nem, bánh cuốn and even bánh mì, ... many times I have tried to talk to the owners and the staffs in Vietnamese but they can only speak Chinese and this is very common in Paris.

Phở 13, Paris 13

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Phở Bờm, Paris 13

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Phở Mùi, Paris 13

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Panda Belleville, Paris 19

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And make no mistake, Vietnamese restaurants rarely sell Chinese food, but in contrast, there are many Chinese restaurants selling Vietnamese food for profits. You must pay attention to the menu, the majority of Vietnamese restaurants have the Chinese in their menus and it helps Chinese people here easier to read what they would eat, besides Vietnamese and French. And to make sure, you can talk with the staffs to know who is the owners.

By the way, I really enjoy my dishes at those restaurants. But one thing you should to know, eat Chinese dish at Chinese restaurants and Vietnamese food at Vietnamese restaurants, because it ensures the standard in culinary style.

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