Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Dubai restaurant makes diners fork out Dh50 if they don't finish meal

Policy has been introduced to combat food waste and promote healthy eating

Ming Yang said she is keen to encourage a healthier attitude towards food portions and discourage waste by charging diners an extra Dh50 if they don't finish their meal. Chris Whiteoak/The National
Ming Yang said she is keen to encourage a healthier attitude towards food portions and discourage waste by charging diners an extra Dh50 if they don't finish their meal. Chris Whiteoak/The National

A Dubai restaurant is serving up a Dh50 charge for customers who fail to finish their meals in a bid to combat food waste.

The Gulou Hotpot, in Al Barsha, introduced the policy when it first opened its doors in September of last year.

Owner Ming Yang, 50, insists she has only had to enforce the food fee on 'very rare occasions" and said she is keen to encourage a healthier approach to eating in the UAE and discourage the food wastage seen at brunches across the emirate.

She said the scheme has gone down well with the restaurant's customers.

“We want to show people a healthier approach to food than they are maybe used to here in Dubai,” said Ms Yang.

“You see a lot of food being thrown out and wasted at brunches so we wanted to show there was another way.”

Dubai has long had an image of excess when it came to culinary events such as brunches, where lavish amounts of food would be prepared only for huge amounts to go to waste.

The average UAE resident produces 2.7 kilograms of waste per day, according to Dubai Carbon, in terms of both food and packaging. It is also estimated about Dh13 billion worth of food is wasted by businesses and consumers in the country.

For many hotels and restaurants, particularly in Dubai, lavish brunches are a major selling-point, but that was not the case for Ms Yang and her team at The Gulou Hotpot.

Gulou Hotpot Restaurant is putting an extra Dh50 on the bill of customers who don't leave an empty plate. Chris Whiteoak/The National
Gulou Hotpot Restaurant is putting an extra Dh50 on the bill of customers who don't leave an empty plate. Chris Whiteoak/The National

“We want to promote a healthier lifestyle and that means you don’t have to fill your plate up to the limit,” she said.

“We have customers from many different nationalities who have told me that they think it’s a great idea and they are really happy with it.

“Of course, customers can eat as much as they like but we want to educate them on the nutritional value of eating healthy amounts of good food.”

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Read more:

Dubai's lavish hotel and restaurant displays a major source of food waste, campaigners say

Hotels scale back on buffets and all-you-can-eat brunches as food waste grows in public consciousness

The growing importance of UAE food security

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The Dh50 fee also applies to customers who stayed for more than two hours at their tables.

While The Gulou Hotpot was one of the first restaurants in the region to implement such a scheme, the practice is common in other parts of the world.

“I got the idea from restaurants in Hong Kong that have similar charges for customers,” said Ms Yang.

“We wanted to give people an authentic Chinese restaurant experience of good healthy food in sensible portions.”

The scheme has been lauded by a number of food industry professionals.

Ghassen El Kesti, who runs a theme park in Umm Al Quwain, said he was so impressed that he is considering adopting a similar strategy at his restaurants.

“When you go to a buffet in the UAE there is a lot of abuse,” he said.

“People don’t think twice about taking more than they can eat and depriving others of food.”

He added that mentality set a bad example to future generations.

“Children are growing up seeing people filling their plates as high as they can with food,” he said.

“They grow up thinking that is normal practice. People should not be taking more food than they can eat,” added the 46-year-old Lebanese national.

He said that if more restaurants followed the lead of The Gulou Hotpot it would teach people to behave better.

“I have never eaten at The Gulou Hotpot but I would definitely be encouraged to eat there from what I have heard,” he said.

A notice on tables in the restaurant warns diners about the cost of overstaying their welcome or failing to clear their plates. Chris Whiteoak/The National
A notice on tables in the restaurant warns diners about the cost of overstaying their welcome or failing to clear their plates. Chris Whiteoak/The National

Mr El Kesti added that many restaurants are under financial pressure from people taking more than their fair share during buffets.

“I think this could be like introducing no-smoking signs, once one restaurant introduces it, more will follow.”

Ms Yang’s stance was also welcomed by Amruta Kshemkalyani, a sustainability consultant in Dubai.

“Food waste is a major issue in this region and you only have to look at the amount of food that is wasted during brunches,” she said.

“There is also a culture of people availing of two-for-one offers here when they don’t need to and it is just pure excess.”

She said that restaurants in the UAE should follow Ms Yang’s lead and introduce similar practices.

“I want to applaud the restaurant for introducing this as the industry needs to show more restraint when it comes to food preparation,” said the 35-year-old.

“We need to raise awareness of sustainable food practices and this is a huge step in the right direction.”

Updated: January 15, 2019 11:33 AM

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