Chinese restaurants grew in popularity over the past century for many reasons ranging from their novelty, exotic appeal, good taste, and presumed positive impact on health.  Not to be overlooked is the lower price of meals at most Chinese restaurants, which gave them a competitive edge made possible by low overhead.  Located often in low-rent areas and staffed by no-wage family members who worked together over long days to enable the survival of their restaurants, they used low prices to attract customers, especially those non-Chinese who before the end of W. W. II were hesitant to try unfamiliar and foreign food.

  Customers of Chinese restaurants have come to expect fast delicioufood, fortune cookies, dirty restrooms, rude or indifferent waiters, and low, low prices.  This last point was even recognized in an analysis in Atlantic Monthly by an economist, Tyler Cowen, author of An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies.

"Quality food is cheaper when cheap labor is available to cook it. In a relatively wealthy country like the United States, cheap labor can be hard to find. We have a high level of labor productivity and a minimum wage; in some cases even illegal immigrants earn more than the legal minimum. But one obvious place to find cheap labor is in family-owned, family-run Asian restaurants. Family members will work in the kitchen or as waiters for relatively little pay, or sometimes no pay at all. Sometimes they’re expected to do the work as part of their contribution to the family. The upshot ithese restaurants tend to offer good food buys."

   I raised the same point in Sweet and Sour. But the low prices in Chinese restaurants that were once adaptive may have put them in a box from which it is impossible to escape today. Raising prices to match, or exceed, the average price of a meal at restaurants in general might lead to loss of many customers long accustomed to bargain meals at Chinese restaurants.  The trend of some Chinese restaurants to reinvent themselves as fusion cuisine is one strategy that makes higher prices more palatable to diners.  Foodies feel these restaurants are the next hot thing and are willing to stomach the higher tab.