Last January, I wrote a MUNCHIES article about a restaurant in the city of Chongqing, China that gave free food to customers that a panel of cosmetic surgeons decided were prettiest. Earlier that month, I'd reported on a Chongqing joint that weighed customers and gave heavy men and light women discounts. And prior to that, a Shanghai restaurant gave a price cut to tall customers. I thought that the country—where I have lived for the past two years—had reached peak quirky, appearance-based promotion point.
But I was wrong. Now Yang Jia Hot Pot Restaurant in Jinan has gone just about as far as you can this side of the indecent-exposure line, promo-wise. Recently, they held a promo day on which the amount of thigh female customers exposed was measured, with discounts offered based on how many inches of flesh were on display.
There wasn't much of a backlash in China against the fatty and pretty-rewarding restaurants, despite them gaining mass exposure through WeChat and Weibo, which are basically China's versions of WhatsApp and Twitter, respectively. But it seems as if the public's zany food-deal tipping point may have finally been reached, as a social media slap-down on Yang Jia has been taking place since pictures of the exposed skin-measuring have been doing the rounds.
"That is sick. Why not measure the length of a man's cock?" wrote one Weibo user.
"We are not so poor that we need to wear skirt for a meal," wrote another, while one declared the restaurant a "prostitution house."
Yang Eason, one of the restaurant owners, couldn't see what the fuss was about when MUNCHIES gave him a call. When asked if he thought it was mildly pervy that discount gradients were decided by a male staffer kneeling down and pressing a tape measure against customers' exposed thighs he replied, "Not really. Nobody forces them to come, and we don't get too close to the body. We just measure roughly and we haven't had any customers who wanted to let a waitress do it instead. Also, no customer asked for a second measurement in fear of ours being inaccurate."
He might be blasé about the sexist connotations of his discount deal, but Yang did have his red line, at least. "I was asked by a customer about what would happen if she came into the restaurant naked," he said. "My answer was: 'If you come in naked, I will call the police'. I wouldn't offer her the discount."
The thigh examinations seem to have given the restaurant staff some financial joy as well as any other kinds of joy, too—the deal gave them a spike in sales and will be repeated on May 23 and 24. Yang's understanding of gender issues seems to be key to its success. "Women love two things: beauty and tasty food," he said. "It's just a marketing strategy. Customers get a discount, we get brand awareness. It's a win-win outcome."
Somewhat worryingly, there was no lower age limit on customers who could try to claim a bargain by whacking out the top half of their pins. But Yang said this wasn't a problem because the discount was given based on inches of flesh on show rather than shortness of skirt. "Young girls don't have long enough lengths to reach the length we require," he said, which was a relief.
Still, I couldn't help but feel that his next promotion plan could have been better thought out, lest he risk compounding Yang Jia Hot Pot Restaurant's reputation for serving up a bit too much sauce. "We've also had plans such as asking customers to wear school uniforms," Yang said. "We're considering that for Children's Day on June 1."