The Qingfeng Steamed Bun chain restaurant in Beijing where Chinese president Xi Jinping enjoyed a much-publicised meal on Saturday has removed the table the president sat at for fear that customers would fight over the spot.
“It’s not that we want to keep the table to ourselves as a souvenir; it’s mainly out of safety concerns,” one staffer who only gave her surname, Wang, told a South China Morning Post reporter.
Since stories of Xi's Saturday visit made national headlines, the restaurant has seen an overwhelming swarm of customers, say waiters and the manager. Waiters at the entrance had to warn customers that they would have to wait for around an hour before getting a table and their food.
But undeterred locals and tourists flocked to the humble eatery in western Beijing, forming long queues snaking through the entrance hall into its 500-square-metre dining area.
At lunch hour on Monday, the man waiting at the end of the pick-up queue had a ticket with the number 597. Most customers in the line were busy taking pictures of the store. Many who finally reached the counter had only one simple request: "Just give me the 'Xi Combo!'”.
Zhuo Guizhen, a Beijinger and frequent of the restaurant, said it was the first time she saw so many customers here.
Olivia Chao, a Chinese-Australian tourist travelling with her family in Beijing, was having exactly what Xi ordered.
“My relatives in Australia called us yesterday saying they saw in the news that China’s president dined at this restaurant, so we came today to have a taste of the buns,” she said.
The chain store has seen an explosion of customers since Xi's visit, said the store manager, He Yuanli, as she rattled around the crowded restaurant collecting used trays and wiping down tables. Most customers came for the "Xi Combo," she said.
A staffer from Qingfeng’s headquarters, who came to the branch to help out because of the overwhelming number of diners, said the store had already replaced the table Xi actually used last Saturday in case customers would fight over it.
But Wang said the chain had no plan to add the 21-yuan (HK$27) “Xi Combo” to its set menu yet.
“We don’t want to use his visit as a stunt to make money,” she said.