The modern world has an odd relationship with food. Obsessing over eating and image has become a major problem for many people, and a generation of boys and girls find themselves growing up in a society that values skinniness above everything else. Despite the obvious problems with thin privilege, we continue to be sold an unrealistic and nigh on unachievable idea of the ideal body. It’s no wonder that most of us are unhappy about the way we look.
Usually, restaurants are all too happy to be free from the image obsession that seems inescapable everywhere else. When your business depends on people who enjoy eating, it would seem like a misstep to try and shame them into a diet. As with everything, however, there are exceptions to this supposedly obvious rule.
A restaurant in eastern China has decided to reward its thinnest customers by offering them free food and drink if they can fit through a series of metal gates. If a diner can manage to smuggle their way past the narrowest obstacle, then they will be rewarded with a meal and a beer on the house.
There are several tiers to the Chinese challenge, with each stage representing a slightly diminishing prize. Customers who can pass through the first six-inch sized gap are rewarded with a free meal and beverage of their choice. The second tier, a slightly increased seven-inch gate, comes with an award of five free beers - which may well be preferable to the food, depending on your mood.
The third gap represents a significant increase of 10-inches, though anyone passing through can still claim a beer on the house. The fourth 12-inch tier is easier still and bears the patronising message: “Your figure is just average, you shouldn’t ask for more”. The final gate goes all the way up to 15-inches and is marked with an even crueler comment: “Are you sure you should be drinking beer?”
The restaurant in question, La Chufang, is just the latest in a series of strange image-based promotions from Chinese eateries. One restaurant scans customers faces, before rewarding those that the distinctly pervy AI deems as “pretty”. Another offered free food for overweight men and skinny women, in one of the more blatant displays of gender based double standards that the industry has seen.
Owner and proprietor Zhao Lang has been quick to claim that the challenge isn’t in the least bit fat-shamey. Instead he credits the creation of the challenge not to waistlines, but to hayfever. According to Mr Lang, the whole concept started when, on a particularly pollen-filled afternoon, patrons attempted to squeeze themselves through the restaurant’s partially closed doors. When only the thinnest were successful, Lang decided to turn the game into a permanent fixture.
For most people, this gimmick will be nothing more than a bit of harmless fun. Especially when there’s free beer involved, it’s easy to forget the bigger picture.
But, however tempting it is to guzzle lager and ignore everything else, things that emphasise thinness are often far from innocuous. Offers like this are just part of a larger social tapestry that continues to place unnecessary value on how people look. Fat or thin, we all need to eat. As with many things, size doesn’t matter.