In order to attract customers to her new restaurant, a restaurant owner in Guiyang came up with a noble if naive promotional policy, allowing diners to order how ever many dishes that they desired and then simply pay whatever they wanted when the bill came.
Turns out, this is a really, really bad idea.
While the tactic did manage to attract many diners to the new karst-themed restaurant on its opening day, on October 2nd, it didn’t manage to manage to attract much moolah. Some customers paid only 10% of the cost of their meal, while others dared to leave just 1 RMB on the table. After seven days, the restaurant had lost 100,000 RMB, The Paper reports.
“If our food or service was the problem, then that would be one thing,” owner Liu Xiaojun sighed. “But according to customer feedback, our dishes are both filling and tasty. It’s just that the payments don’t match up with the evaluations.”
After just a week, the promotion fell apart. Liu and her two partners got into an argument and one of the partners fled back to his hometown, vowing not to return.
Originally, the three entrepreneurs had believed in the “inherent goodness of human beings,” presuming that the vast majority of diners would be “rational and fair” when receiving the check.
Apparently, they didn’t know much about people. Back in 2013, a Fuzhou buffet restaurant owner also tried implementing a “pay if you want” policy, hoping to confront China’s “moral crisis” and “long-lost sense of trust” stemming from the Cultural Revolution.
“I don’t run a business, I run a trust,” owner Liu Pengfei said at the time. “When I trust them [the customers], they will trust me and they will begin to love others. I hope that when people come here they sense that. Then, when they return to their work and family, they will share this idea.”
In its first month, the restaurant lost 100,000 RMB.
From 100,000 RMB in a month, to 100,000 RMB in a week just three years later. If that’s not progress, we don’t know what is.
Still, even with these insane losses, you’d think that at least some of the original customers would have got a taste for Liu Xiaojun’s food and came back for more at a fair price.
Nope. By 4 p.m. on the first day after the end of the ill-fated “pay what you want” policy, not a single customer had visited Liu’s restaurant. “It makes sense that people like to eat food and not pay much. I just don’t understand why they haven’t come back since the promotion ended,” she confessed.
Well, maybe they are all gorging themselves on all the other “free food” offered around China. Earlier this month, to celebrate the National Day holiday, a buffet restaurant in Anhui province distributed five days worth of coupons to eat for free to local residents, resulting in total chaos. More recently in Shanghai, residents have started ransacking local “sharing fridges” for all they can carry.