HOW TO – Order Food in China 🤔 Best Food Delivery Apps in China

Complete Guide to the Best Food Delivery Apps in China

If you’re wondering how to order food in China, then we have the perfect guide for you.

Below we give a breakdown of the best food delivery apps in China with a brief introduction on how to use them.

Anyone familiar with China will know that pretty much anything can be delivered nowadays.

Almost all restaurants will be on at least one delivery app if not multiple.

Whatever you’re craving you’re bound to find it.

When it comes to essential apps in China, a food delivery app is a must! In China there are two big main contenders which are Meituan Waimai (美团外卖 Měi tuán wàimài) and Eleme (饿了么 Èle me).

Now, both these apps are in Chinese which may seem daunting for non-speakers. But it’s actually much easier than you think!

Aside from these two main apps there are a couple of other food delivery apps that are also worth a mention: Dianping (点评 Diǎnpíng) and Sherpas (食派士 Shí pài shì).

With our guidance below you’ll be sat at home ordering your favourite dishes in no time!

How to Order Food in China – Meituan Waimai

How to Order Food in China – Eleme

How to Order Food in China – Dianping

How to Order Food in China – Bonus Hack: Sherpas

How to Order Food in China – Meituan Waimai

This food delivery app is instantly recognisable by their cute kangaroo logo. No doubt anyone who has been in China for even a short amount of time will have seen at least one of these kangaroo clad delivery drivers.

Meituan Waimai has everything from big fast food chains like McDonald’s and KFC to small local Chinese restaurants.

What is deliverable will depend on your area as most restaurants have a limit of the distance they will deliver to.

However, if you can’t find what you’re looking for here you can always check the other delivery apps.

On the homepage of the app you can click on the food (美食 Měishí) icon. From here you can browse through a list of nearby restaurants that are available to order from.

Ordering-food-in-China

Alternatively if you know the Chinese name for what you’re looking for, you can put this in the search bar.

You can search in English but the results normally aren’t very good.

Unsure what to order? Why not have a look at our Best Chinese Dishes To Order for some inspiration.

Along with being able to order food from restaurants you can also order a variety of drinks (饮品 yǐnpǐn).

They have coffee shops like Costa if you’re after a caffeine fix. Or if bubble tea is more your things outlets like Coco are also available to order from.

Now, what’s available to order doesn’t stop there. You can also use the app to order groceries from supermarkets (超市 chāoshì).

This can be anything from some snacks to some must need essentials like toilet paper. There is also a specific section for fresh food (生鲜 shēng xiān) such as fruits and vegetables.

There is even a medicine (药品 yàopǐn) section so you can order from a nearby pharmacy.

Delivery fees: Normally around 5 CNY, but are often less and sometimes even free!

Discounts: Most food outlets normally have a few deals on offer that will display at the top. When you pay you’ll also be given a voucher which you can share with friends. This also enables you to receive the voucher yourself.

How to Use Meituan Waimai

China-how-to-order-food
  1. Set up your profile. You’ll need a Chinese phone number which you’ll be asked to confirm with a verification code.
  2. Input your address. Now, this is the only slightly tricky part of the process for those non Chinese speakers. It may be a good idea to get a Chinese friend or colleague to help make sure everything is correct. After all, you don’t want to be sat waiting for your dinner which has been delivered to the wrong address!
  3. Find what you want to order by clicking on the various icons and looking through the list. Or search directly for what you’re looking for.
  4. Go to check out. Press the orange check out (去结算 qù jiésuàn) button at the bottom.
  5. Pay. Check everything is correct then press the submit order button (提交订单 tíjiāo dìngdān). This will take you to your chosen payment option. The default option is WeChat Pay but you can also change it to AliPay.
  6. And you’re done! Sit back and relax while waiting for your order. Most restaurants will give you an estimated delivery time, it’s normally about 30-40 minutes from when you ordered.

How to Order Food in China – Eleme

This has a very similar set up to Meituan Waimai. To be honest there is very little difference between the two apps and which one you decide to use will normally come down to personal preference.

Since 2018 Eleme was acquired by the Alibaba Group so it’s no surprise that it’s the big rival of Tencent backed Meituan Waimai.

No doubt, you will have seen their blue uniformed drivers dashing around the city on their scooters.

Like Meituan Waimai, Eleme has a wide variety of food available. Delivering for those big food brands and also local, independent restaurants as well.

On the homepage you can click on the food (美食 Měishí) icon which will take you through to a list of restaurants. These are generally restaurants located about 5-6km away.

Just like Meituan Waimai you also have the option to search for the food you want instead.

If there is a certain dish you’re looking for e.g. noodles (面条 miàntiáo) then it may be useful to learn some basic Chinese characters found in menus.

This will enable you to search directly for what you want.

Along with food Eleme also has a store (卖场 màichǎng) option, food market (菜场 càichǎng) option and pharmacy (药店 yàodiàn) option.

All very similar to the option on Meituan Waimai.

The other main icon is the “errand” (跑腿 pǎotuǐ) option. This has two main functions. One is getting a “helper” to assist you in buying and delivering a specific item to you.

The other main feature is using them as a delivery service (快递 kuàidì express delivery).

You’ll need to input your request in Chinese, so probably only best to use this if you have some Chinese knowledge. (This option is also available in Meituan Waimai).

One other useful thing about the Eleme app is that you can actually access it through the AliPay app. This is great if you already use AliPay and don’t want to clutter your phone with another app.

Delivery fees: About the same as Meituan Waimai, normally about 5 CNY. Again, this can vary and can sometimes be free or a very small amount.

Discounts: Many restaurants offer daily deals which are displayed at the top of their menu. You’ll also be given a coupon to share with friends when you check out. Once shared the coupon is also available to you.

Chinese Menus Explained 🍜 How to Read a Chinese Menu + The Complete Cheat Sheet Thumbnail

Chinese Menus Explained 🍜 How to Read a Chinese Menu + The Complete Cheat Sheet

Chinese Menus. How to read them, how to decode them? Not so easy right? Well with our FREE Chinese Menu cheat sheet and tips, you’ll have no problems!

How to Use Eleme

How-to-order-food-china
  1. Set up your profile. You’ll need a Chinese phone number and will be asked to confirm it with a code.
  2. Input your address. Again, if you don’t read Chinese this can be a little tricky, but see the translated screenshot for some guidance. Alternatively as a Chinese friend or colleague to help.
  3. Find what you want to order by clicking on the various icons and looking through the list. Or search directly for what you’re looking for.
  4. Go to check out. Press the green check out (去结算 qù jiésuàn) button at the bottom.
  5. Pay. Check over your order and confirm by pressing the check out (去结算 qù jiésuàn) button again. This takes you through to the payment options. You can choose either Alipay (the default method) or change it to WeChat Pay.
  6. Finished! Your food is on it’s way, most orders take around 30 minutes to arrive.

How to Order Food in China – Dianping

order-food-china-dianping

Dianping is actually partnered with Meituan Waimai so their food delivery system actually links up to that app. Because of this I won’t go into too much detail on the app but thought there were a few features worth mentioning.

Although Dianping has a food delivery feature, it is much more than just a food delivery app. Perhaps a good comparison would be TripAdvisor, except you can also order food from many of the restaurants.

There are two different ways you can look at ordering food on here. On the homepage you can select the food icon and browse through a list of restaurants.

This is a great way to order food if you’re looking for recommendations or want to see more information about the restaurant.

Clicking on a restaurant on the list will lead you to their profile. There you can see reviews, photos, opening times etc.

If the restaurant’s food is available for delivery there will be a takeaway (外卖 wàimà) icon which you can click on.

Best-delivery-apps-in-China

The other way to order food is to click on the Meituan Waimai icon on the homepage.

You’ll then be taken directly through to the linked delivery app.

Dianping is also a useful app because you can use it through your WeChat.

If you go into your WeChat pay, you’ll see Dianping under “third party operator”.

This is great news if you’re someone like me and always running out of space on their phone!

Another great feature of the app is that you can use it to make a reservation (订座 dìng zuò) at many restaurants. This is ideal for those non-Chinese speakers as it takes away the fear of having to call up!

For someone who has had their name mistaken as Kitty, Kathy and Kapie!? when booking on the phone, this is certainly a welcome relief.

How to Order Food in China – Bonus Hack: Sherpas

As the only food delivery app in English it may be tempting to take the easy option and choose Sherpas.

However, that English translation comes at a hefty price with minimum delivery fees of 15 CNY and more pricey food.

Some other downsides to the app is there is a lot less choice than Meituan Waimai or Eleme.

how-to-order-food-china-sherpas

The focus is mainly on Western restaurants or more well known brands.

This means you miss out on those local Chinese restaurants which often have some of the tastiest and best value food.

However, there are some perks for the Sherpas app, aside from the English interface.

One main perk is that there are some Western restaurants available on this app that aren’t available on Meituan and Eleme.

Another perk is if you don’t use the app too often they’ll give you quite generous reward vouchers to try and entice you back! They also have a “Daily Deals” page that can have some pretty good discounts on it.

Although this may seem like a much easier option for how to order food in China, those 15 CNY delivery charges do add up. It’s really worth making that little bit of effort and getting yourself set up on Meituan Waimai or Eleme.

And there you have it, your complete guide on how to order food in China. If you’re interested in Chinese Food Culture why not learn about The 8 Chinese Cuisines.

How to Order Food in China – FAQ’s

What is the best food delivery app to use in China?

The main two food delivery apps in China are Meituan Waimai and Eleme.

Both of these have masses of options and have very similar features so either of these are a great choice.

Is there a Chinese Food Delivery App in English?

Yes, the Sherpas food delivery app is in English.

However, this has less options than the Chinese food delivery apps Meituan Waimai and Eleme, so we’d recommend following our guidance so you can use one of those instead.

What Chinese restaurants delivery near me?

If you download one of the Chinese delivery apps you can click on the food icon and it will display a list of restaurants near you that are open for delivery.

How do I pay for my food delivery in China?

You can link all of the main food delivery apps to either your WeChat Pay or AliPay account.

There is also an option to link it to your Chinese bank card, but this is more complicated.

Do McDonalds and KFC do delivery in China?

Yes, both McDonald’s and KFC in China do deliver.

Both are available on Meituan Waime and Eleme.

They also have their own separate delivery apps available to download as well.

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    Irene Magnosi , Student Advisor

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