, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 133-157
Date: 14 May 2009

Family Firms, Networks and ‘Ethnic Enterprise’: Chinese Food Industry in Britain

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Abstract

Chinese family enterprises in the United Kingdom have penetrated many different sectors of the economy, including restaurants, wholesaling, retailing, trading, manufacturing, property development, computer services and investment holding. Among the companies in these sectors, those involved in different segments of the food industry, as manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers, reputedly feature characteristics of Chinese culture. A majority of these enterprises, for example, function as family firms. This study explores the assertion that, among companies owned by ethnic minorities, culture strongly influences form of business development. This argument will be assessed through a focus on Chinese food-based enterprises in the UK. Two family-controlled companies, Seven Seas (Frozen Food) Ltd and Dayat Foods Packaging Ltd, were selected as case studies as they are involved in key business components of the Chinese food chain industry. Through an in-depth comparative study of the history and development of these two firms, we consider the argument that Chinese businesses have evolved well because of family ties and their inclusion in mutually-beneficial ethnically-constructed networks. Through these case studies, we provide an alternative perspective to diasporic Chinese business development which brings into question the extensive use of the concept of ethnic enterprise.