Thursday, October 17, 2013

At Least They Ate Their Veggies

And speaking of people stretching rules to their breaking point, as discussed with Congress yesterday, it appears I have a story across my wires along those lines.

In 1990, Pizza Hut opened its first restaurant in China. As of 2011, they had 520 in China. Some are take-out only, some are sit-down. Just like in the United States, China has a salad bar in their sit-down places. Now comes the difference: in the United States, you're permitted as many trips to the salad bar as you wish. In China, though, you only got one plate and one trip. Your basic no-refills policy.

It's a pizza place, right? People are there for the pizza. What could go wrong?

(via Kotaku; the image file says it's from

That. That could go wrong.

With only one trip to the salad bar, the Chinese customers decided they were going to make that trip count. You might expect someone to stack up food in a semi-large pile. You don't expect people to undergo frankly impressive feats of botanical engineering such that the amount of food and the aesthetic appeal of the tower, and uploading the result to the Internet, becomes clearly more important than whether or not you're actually going to eat it. That one picture is merely a sample. Others are shown here. One imagines the employees at these Pizza Huts burying their face in their hands muttering 'Oh, geez, not again' every time they noticed someone lingering at the salad bar. There were how-to videos and everything, such as this one from 2006.

You see, this is, at least according to my research (and I could very well be wrong; it's mostly personal anecdotes), how any buffet works in China. As I've had it explained it to me, when Chinese restaurant customers are offered an all-you-can-eat buffet, odds are that they will not only pile up food in this fashion, they will then try to smuggle additional food home. The whole 'buffet food must be eaten inside the restaurant rule' is either disregarded or nonexistent, and even if it did exist, the customers just leave giant piles of uneaten food on their table. It's more about the acquiring than the eating.

Eventually, Pizza Hut learned their lesson. The salad tower shenanigans put enough of a dent in Pizza Hut's budget- and patience- that in 2009, they announced they were shutting the salad bars entirely. Which just encouraged people to make more towers before they were gone, because we just can't have nice things.

Original reporting indicated that the salad bars all closed. A follow-up visit by Kotaku's Eric Jou noted that at least some of the salad bars are still around; however, the point has gotten across, as the salad towers have ceased.

It should be noted that the closedown happened in 2009. For some reason, this anecdote really flared up this past July and has often been portrayed as something that's just happened recently or is even still ongoing. I'm guessing someone got a look at it one day around that time and it just got up into the media jetstream from there.

Not only that, but a couple articles over the years came out with titles like 'Salad Bar Hacking' and 'Engineers show diners how to beat the salad bar', as if the wanton acquisition of more food than you could possibly eat in one sitting was something to strive for. As it happened, in the process of hacking the salad bar, they largely beat it to death.

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