Restaurants in Zhuhai that allow customers to waste food face hefty fines

Labels warning customers they will be fined for excessive leftovers may be put on every table

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 August, 2013, 12:48pm

The government of Zhuhai plans to impose fines as high as 10,000 yuan (HK$12,600) on restaurants that allow customers to waste food.

The Office of the Spiritual Civilisation Development Steering Commission of Zhuhai released draft measures on the matter yesterday, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported.

The draft measures say a label that warns people they will be fined for excessive leftovers should be put on every table of every restaurant and canteen in the city.

Restaurants that allow customers sitting alone to order too many dishes and let food to go to waste, or allow offending customers to leave, would be warned. If they are caught a second time, restaurants face fines of between 2,000 and 10,000 yuan

The draft also says restaurants should be fined between 1,000 and 3,000 yuan if they enforce a minimum spending level for customers or charge a corkage fee.

But the draft does not mention how much leftover food constitutes a breach of the rules.

If the draft is approved, Zhuhai would be the first city on the mainland with legislation specifically targeting social extravagance.

But some lawyers and industry insiders say policing the law would be unpractical and was aimed more at top officials.

Xi Jinping earlier this year urged all official organisations and agencies to maintain a frugal lifestyle and oppose extravagance. Xi said the Chinese tradition of "being diligent and thrifty" and the principle of "honouring frugality and shaming extravagance" should be promoted throughout society.

According to media reports, the volume of leftovers in restaurants across the country is estimated to be enough to feed 200 million people annually.

Many restaurant owners in Zhuhai say the draft would be hard to implement and would be unfair to their business.

"Which official department and officials would be the judge to fine us and what's their standard to judge? Will rice mean a 2,000 yuan fine and half a dish mean a 10,000 yuan fine?" said one restaurant owner.

"As an owner, I cannot force my customer to take the leftovers with them.

"Maybe I only can bribe the officials who come to check and judge the leftovers."

Li Shuquan, a Zhuhai-based lawyer, said the draft was hollow.

"The Office of the Spiritual Civilisation Development Steering Committee of Zhuhai is not a legislative body to release or effect such a policy," Lin said.

"The details of the draft measures seem not very professional or rigorous.

"It looks more like a move to echo the campaign of the top leaders."