Chinese restaurant apologises for weighing customers before entry

Diners are being encouraged to limit how much they order in restaurants – STR/AFP

A restaurant in China has apologised for asking customers to weigh themselves before entering as part of a national campaign against wasting food.

Customers at the Chuiyan Fried Beef restaurant in the city of Changsa were requested to stand on bathroom scales and enter personal information into an app before they sat down to eat. 

The app would then recommend food choices by matching their weight to the calorific content of a dish, according to state media China News Service.

The app recommended that women who weighed under 40kg should order a maximum of two dishes, such as sauteed beef and steamed fish heads. Men weighing between 70 and 80kg were able to order a third dish.

Chuiyan Fried Beef said in a statement it was interpreting the ‘Clean Plate Campaign’ launched by President Xi Jinping last week, after he called national levels of food wastage “shocking and distressing”. 

In an apology posted online, the restaurant said: “Our original intentions were to advocate stopping waste and ordering food in a healthy way. We never forced customers to weigh themselves.”

Restaurants on China are actively encouraging people not to waste food - STR/AFP
Restaurants on China are actively encouraging people not to waste food – STR/AFP

The restaurant also pinned up signs saying “be thrifty and diligent, promote empty plates” and “operation empty plate” to show their support for President Xi’s campaign.

The installation of the weighing scales led to furious backlash on Chinese social media. Hashtags about the restaurant on Weibo, a social media platform, have been seen more than 300 million times by users.

Tan Yan, president of the Chuiyan Fried Beef chain, told The Beijing News that while the scales had caused distress, thousands had voluntarily weighed themselves.

“Many female customers like to weigh themselves, and their body weight was sent to their phones, not shown on the scales, so it did not breach their privacy.”

Following the announcement of the ‘Clean Plate Campaign’, authorities in China have recommended that restaurants serve one fewer dish than there are members of a dining party, a policy known as ‘N-1’.

Chinese state television have also strongly criticised live streamed videos of people consuming large amounts of food. Known by their Korean name ‘Mukbang’ the videos have been described as “food orgies.”