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TEST YOURSELF: Food for thought

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Why are there so many restaurants in Thailand?

Test Yourself is where you can improve your reading skills. Whether it’s for tests like University Entrance Exams or IELTS and TOEFL, or even just for fun, these stories help you to read, understand and improve your English.

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Read the following story by Suthon Sukphisit from the Bangkok Post. Then, answer the questions that follow.

Have you ever wondered why there are so many restaurants and food shops in Thailand? How do they create their dishes? How many different types of restaurants are there? Are all of them successful? How do the successful ones stay popular?

THAIS CAN COOK

The answer to the first question is simple — most Thais think they can cook and are capable of running a food shop. For generations, Thai families have kept up various cooking traditions. Thais love cooking. There is also a commonly held belief that running a food shop isn’t difficult.

Besides Thai food, many ethnic dishes have long traditions in Thailand, particularly those of Chinese, Muslim, Mon, Vietnamese and Indian origin. The older generations pass on recipes and cooking techniques to their children.

A major reason that running a food shop is so appealing is because it is self-employment, and therefore, associated with independence and freedom. If you have the talent and the patience, you stand a good chance of making the business viable. If you can build up a reputation, you can attract more customers, allowing you to turn a decent profit.

Over time, restaurants in Thailand have grown in number and variety. Marketing strategies have developed. Noodle shops in the same area will offer different varieties of noodles. Where one shop sells stir-fried noodles, the next shop will provide noodle soup. Khao gaeng (rice and curry) shops in fresh markets sell cheap food to take away. Shops in office buildings usually provide ample seating and open early in the morning.

Ahan taam sang shops, which cook to order, are common near condominiums and workplaces. The residents and workers lack the time and/or facilities to cook for themselves, so such eateries provide a valuable service. If the food is good, hygienic and reasonably priced, the shop is likely to succeed.

GO UPSCALE

At the opposite end of the scale, Thailand is home to any increasing number of high-class restaurants. These are a world away from the bare-bones roadside eateries. Instead, you’ll find lavish interior decoration and sophisticated menus. Customers come to enjoy exquisite food cooked with top quality ingredients that come beautifully arranged. These restaurants reflect how far the restaurant industry has advanced.

The fine dining boom has been propelled in part by the growing number of international cooking institutes established in Thailand in recent years. Trainees tend to be members of a new generation of ambitious young Thais, with strong determination and clearly defined goals. Upon graduation, they are recruited to work in high-end hotels and restaurants. Many go overseas to gain valuable experience before returning to open fine-dining establishments of their own.

However, while the attraction of running one’s own restaurant is clear, there are plenty of pitfalls. Many restaurants and food shops don’t succeed. There are numerous factors to consider when operating a restaurant.

Before opening any kind of eatery, proprietors must have a realistic idea of the customer base and number of potential diners they can expect. Once open, they must maintain quality and value. They need to make sure they are open when they are supposed to be. They need to be prepared to make significant investments to grow and improve.

Opening a restaurant is not that easy anymore. It remains a great challenge and good luck to anyone preparing to embark on such an undertaking. But they should think carefully and prepare well.

Of course, there are always exceptions and it’s worth taking note of cases where things succeed while doing it differently. Some businesses do well despite the lack of a prime location or dazzling interior. There are simple shops that offer simple dishes and don’t pay much heed to advertising or marketing. Loyal customers still go there and eat. Such distinguished shops exist all over the country. 

Many of the best establishments are located in old communities, along narrow passages or behind old temples, in remote sois or villages, or in old shophouses with no signs at the front.

They have often been in operation for generations, managing to maintain their original, unique characters. The food is lovingly and expertly prepared, using tried and tested methods. When customers get to eat delicious food passionately cooked in a proud but humble old establishment, they cannot help but feel they have made a special new discovery. Where’s your favourite?

Section 1: Read through the story and answer the following questions. 

1. Many people think that running a food shop is difficult. True or false? …………….

2. Food shop owners enjoy working for themselves. True or false? …………….

3. A shop’s reputation affects the amount of money it can make. True or false? …………….

4. Food shops in office buildings often have plenty of places to sit. True or false? …………….

5. The number of restaurants in Thailand selling high-quality food had increased. True or false? …………….

6.  Shop owners need to have an idea of the number of customers before they open their shop. True or false? …………….

7. Simple food shops need a lot of advertising. True or false? …………….

8. Many of the best food shops are in easy-to-find locations. True or false? …………….

Section 2: Write the noun form of the following words. 

9. various .……..…10. long ……..…11. valuable …….…12. ambitious .…………13. loyal .…………

Section 3: Read the following passage. Then, fill in the blanks with the correct words from the choices given.

The number of factors to be taken into …14… increase the further upmarket you go. A …15… location, attractive decor, an appealing atmosphere and ample parking are …16… for fine-dining establishments. The restaurant must …17… attention. The menu must be enticing; the quality must stand out. The staff must be well trained. The …18… of the ingredients must be high and consistent. Efficient management and promotion are …19… to make the business a success.

14. a. account b. accounts    c. accounting

15. a. strategy b. strategic c. stratocaster

16. a. necessity b. necessary c. need

17. a. attractive b. attract c. avoid

18. a. quality b. qualities c. qualification

19. a. require b. requirement c. required

Section 4: Find words that match the following definitions.

20. single stages in the history of a family ……………

21. connected with a nation or people that share a cultural tradition ……………

22. clean and free of bacteria ……………

23. a sudden increase in economic activity ……………

24. dangers or difficulties ……………

Answers: 1. False. 2. True. 3. True.  4. True.  5. True.  6. True.   7. False.    8. False. 

9. variety 10. length 11. value  12. ambition 13. loyalty  

14. a. 15. b. 16. b. 17. b. 18. a. 19. c.

20. generations. 21. ethnic. 22. hygienic.   23. boom.   24. pitfalls.

SCORE

21-24: Excellent! 17-20: Good.   13-16: Fair.   12 or fewer: You'll do better next time!


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