A hot pot restaurant in China shut down just two weeks into a month-long $19 all-you-can-eat deal. Customers helped themselves to so much during the promotion that the shuttered restaurant is now almost $80,000 in debt.
Jiamener, which is located in the Chinese city of Chengdu, opened back in December and started the promotion in June, according to a report by the Chengdu Economic Daily. The idea was that customers would pay a 120 yuan fee for a membership card that would get them unlimited food for the month.
People quickly started gaming this system, however, and passed the card to family, friends, and possibly even their pets considering the amount of damage they did. This meant the cost of purchase for the card and the amount the business was making was totally offset.
The promotion (and the restaurant) lasted just 11 days into its projected month, as it started drawing over 500 customers a day after word spread. Lines formed hours before opening and stayed well past closing. One of its owners revealed in the report that he had only slept a few hours a night during those two weeks and that everyone was working at least 10-hour days.
Those running this free food store knew that they were going to lose money, but the hope was that the promotion would generate buzz and customer loyalty. This backfired when it just ran out of money. People started even taking food to-go.
"The uncivilized behavior of the diners was secondary," another of the owners told Chengdu Economic Daily, "the main problem was our poor management.”
h/t Chengdu Economic Daily, South China Morning Post