Most all-you-can-eat places don’t expect their patrons to literally eat everything. Yet one restaurant in Chengdu, China, was forced to shut down after its customers went to town on the buffet, wiping out its inventory.
Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan with a population of 14 million, is a popular tourist destination, especially for Australian travelers. With a booming economy, active nightlife, and innumerable restaurants, the city is renowned for its hot pots.
The owners of Jiamenar, a hot-pot restaurant, thought their buffet-style concept would be profitable, but they were sadly mistaken when two weeks after they opened, they discovered their business was a bust due to their overly glutenous clientele. The eatery publicized a $25 card that allowed customers to eat as much as they wanted for a month. Shortly after opening, hungry locals lined up around the block to take advantage of the endless buffet.
Not only did the card owners indulge their boundless appetites, they also shared their cards with friends and family members who headed down to the buffet to tie on the feedbag. The situation got so out of control that the kitchen staff could hardly keep up with the non-stop food gorge. The restaurant finally closed its doors, leaving its owners with a debt of more than $100,000. According to Su Jie, a co-owner of Jiamenar, “The uncivilized behavior of the diners was secondary — the main problem was our poor management.”
Reports say that roughly 500 customers stood in line for the buffet each day, beginning at 8 am. The restaurant staff was forced to work 10-hour shifts to keep up with the demand, and one the owners said he had only gotten two or three hours a night of sleep during the promotion period.
“If you speak to a local about your stay in Chengdu, they'll probably ask if you've sampled hot pot. Everyone who lives here seems to love it, and trying it should be a mandatory part of everyone's culinary tour of Sichuan,” a Chengdu tourism website says. “Hotpot restaurants can be found on pretty much every street in Chengdu, but the quality and taste can vary hugely….. Sichuan food is renowned for being spicy, oily and packed with plenty of numbing Sichuan peppercorns, and the traditional hot pot is no exception. Even for those used to the local cuisine, hot pot can still be quite taxing on the digestive system.” Apparently not so for the faithful who flocked to Jiamenar.