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Chinese Restaurants Are Weighing Customers and Giving the Fat Ones Free Food

In Chongqing, southwest China, two restaurants are luring portly men into their venues by weighing them and offering discounts and free meals based on how heavy they are. Women, however, can only claim discounts if they are under a certain weight.

by Jamie Fullerton
Jan 6 2015, 6:40pm

How would you feel if you arrived at a restaurant and your waiter asked you to step on some scales and weigh in while queue members gawped? For most, it would be a touch less humiliating than having a troupe of TGI Friday's service staff sing "Happy Birthday" to you with the put-upon faux chirpiness only the truly dead inside can show.

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But two restaurants in the city of Chongqing in southwest China are luring portly men into their venues by weighing them and offering discounts and free meals based on how heavy they are. Women, however, can only claim discounts if they are under a certain weight.

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Men who weigh in at over 140 kg (about 300 lbs) on the scales by the front counter of the Nahuo restaurant can claim a free feed, while women who weigh in under 35 kg (about 75 lbs) can also enjoy the offer. Each time a customer is shown to be over or under the target weight, staff members burst into cheers and hand over vouchers.

It's a bizarre policy that would result in a restaurant's immediate trial by Twitter, then subsequent execution via The Guardian if it were implemented in the UK. But in Chongqing, it's going down like a plate of Michelin-grade dumplings.

Girl on scales

WeChat, China's hugely popular social networking smartphone app, has been flooded with pictures of punters gleefully sharing pictures of each other on the scales celebrating their heft (or lack of).

"We know that people often don't like heavy men or women who are too thin," Mr. Han, manager of Nahuo, told me. "We're giving these people the opportunity to be happy to be heavy or slim by getting discounted meals. They can enjoy almost anything from the menu with the offer aside from beer and hairy crabs."

Girl eating chicken

Mr Yu eating Mr. Yu eating

Han denied that the inarguably sexist policy of having opposite rules for men and women was, in fact, inarguably sexist, saying that he plans to switch the deal soon and offer discounts to heavy women and light men.

But until this important step for gender equality takes place, it's bulky blokes who are reaping the rewards. Mr. Yu, a 39 year-old company manager, bagged a 39 percent discount on his lamb chops, roast chicken, and shrimp after weighing in at just over 101 kg (223 lbs). "Whether it's a stunt or not, it's just good for customers to get a real discount," he said between slurps.

Ms Liu, 30, somewhat understandably wouldn't reveal how much she weighed in at, but said she got 49 percent off the price of her meal of seafood and chicken. "Everyone's got different opinions about this offer, but some fat people just like eating and don't care what they look like," she said.

Chongqing's Mao restaurant is offering a similar deal, with around 20 customers a day claiming a discounted or free meal.

Couple weighing in

Mao manager Mr. Xie told me that there was nothing humiliating about parading overweight people (though, to be fair, getting weighed is completely voluntary at both restaurants). "We give them confidence," he said. "We've had people who came to our restaurant telling us they felt so good because their friends tagged them on pictures on WeChat."

He continued: "'Fat' can be a sensitive topic and fat people might feel depressed sometimes, so we are helping them have interaction with their friends and be a happy fat person. We've had three or four people who weighed more than 150 kg (330 lbs). I was amazed, because there are few fat people here in Chongqing."

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Maybe there aren't many in Chongqing, but there is an expanding number of overweight people in China, with obesity levels ever rising. According to the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, there are 62 million obese people in China, which still puts it behind the US in terms of overall obesity figures.

Infant on scales

But given the final word, manager Xie isn't too concerned of this fact contributing to a potential backlash around his place. "Your body will remind you when it's necessary [to stop eating]," he said. "I am not a light man. In fact, all of us restaurant managers are somewhat heavy. I think you should eat what you want, but get exercise afterwards."

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