Why a restaurant in China is weighing you before you order food
Imagine walking into a fast food restaurant in a shopping mall. It’s a popular one known for its fried beef, so you might have to wait in line a bit for a table. When your turn finally comes, you are starving and you cannot wait to order. But before you do that, you are directed towards a weighing scale. You can order after you find out how much you weigh and then consulting the restaurant’s chart on how much someone of your heft should eat. Welcome to “operation empty plate”.
Last week Xi Jinping, the leader of China, announced in an address his displeasure at the “shocking and distressing” waste of food in the country. He encouraged Chinese people to consider the toil that goes into producing food grains and suggested the country adopt a “sense of crisis” about food security, saying the COVID-19 crisis that is thought to have originated in Wuhan, China had only highlighted the need to do this. It has been dubbed “operation empty plate”.
China’s formula for empty plates
And immediately regional authorities around the country sprang into action to carry out the directives from Beijing. The Wuhan Catering Industry Association in Hubei province is encouraging restaurants in the city to follow a N–1 system, N being the number of diners in the group and the result of the math equation being the number of dishes they can order at a restaurant. Provinces such as Liaoning have done one better and gone in for a N–2, so diners order two fewers dishes than their are members in a dining party. People on romantic dates might go hungry though. In Chongqing, authorities are encouraging restaurants to set up bright LED signs flashing in diners’ faces, encouraging them to eat more “frugally” and even having restaurant staff monitor how much they order, eat and waste. Other provinces are going in for more sensible measures such as halving portion sizes and providing diners with takeaway boxes for leftovers.
Weighing yourself in food
But one restaurant has come up with a novel, if controversial, way to shame people into ordering less food. Chui Yan Fried Beef, a fast food chain restaurant in the city of Changsha in the southern province of Hunan has placed weighing scales at the entrances to their restaurants. Guests can weigh themselves and consult the restaurant’s chart on how much someone of their weight should be ordering. The chart, for instance, prescribes that a woman weighing 40kg should order no more than two dishes while a man who weighs around 80kg can order up to three dishes. The exercise is entirely voluntary and for a little bit of privacy and dignity, the person’s weight would not be shown on the scale for the world to see. The big (or small) number is discretely sent to the diner’s cell phone, to avoid any embarrassment.
The restaurant has had to issue apologies for any hurt caused but is sticking with the initiative that it says is aimed at reducing food wastage. The chain however does plan to provide more nutritional information alongside weighing diners so they can make better eating decisions.
That is in case after weighing yourself you don’t totally lose your appetite.
- Chinese Food
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