The power of Social Media in a Pandemic: the Case of Smoke-Free Beijing’s Catering Industry

Tian XiaoRan, Diederich Bakker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: This study examined how the catering business quickly responded and recovered from the threats caused by COVID-19 with the use of social media in Beijing, China. It evidences how various catering businesses in Beijing continued to pursue their businesses after restrictive social distancing measures were imposed. Methodology: Unstructured face-to-face interviews were conducted with nine restaurant managers in Beijing, who worked during both waves of the pandemic in the spring and fall of 2020. Findings: COVID-19 further strengthened the smoke-free law enforcement in Beijing for the catering business. The Chinese consumers were found to replace restaurant consumption with stay-at-home delivery. Caterers consider social media platforms as essential tools for digital-led customer interaction in a pandemic, but also show concerns about the market power of these platforms. The Chinese government successfully implemented its health tracking app into popular local social media platforms in the battle against COVID-19, and enabled businesses to continue functioning. Value: COVID-19 not only disrupts our daily lives, but it has significantly impacted and improved a smoke-free environment, and it has accelerated the catering business to actively embrace technology which led to remarkable innovations. Integrating health tracking apps into popular and highly penetrated social media platforms is considered as one significant success factor for the containment of the coronavirus and a great help in restoring consumer confidence, leading to purchasing action. This research offers a Chinese inside view of the power of social media to enhance customer interaction and business performance even during a pandemic, profiting both businesses and consumers alike. Implications are raised for similar integration of health apps elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3133-3149
Number of pages17
JournalTobacco Regulatory Science,
Issue numberSupplement 1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2021


  • COVID-19
  • catering industry
  • smoke-free Beijing
  • social media


Dive into the research topics of 'The power of Social Media in a Pandemic: the Case of Smoke-Free Beijing’s Catering Industry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this