Zibo's barbecue craze draws crowds and regulatory action
A city in eastern China's Shandong Province has gained fame online for its barbecue eateries.
The barbecue craze in Zibo began on March 8, when a group of college students rode a high-speed train to the city to eat skewers. Their adventure video went viral on Douyin, clocking over 5.25 million views.
In an effort to make Zibo's barbecue the city's new calling card, the local government announced on March 10 that it would host a barbecue festival during the forthcoming May Day holiday.
The government has added two barbecue-themed bullet trains to transport passengers from Shandong's capital, Jinan, to Zibo. Tourism officials have been promoting the city's cuisine and attractions and giving away souvenirs on the train to visitors.
It appears that their efforts have paid off. According to Meituan, hotel reservations for the May Day holiday in Zibo have increased by an astounding 800 percent compared to 2019, making it the most popular destination in Shandong Province.
According to the most recent data from Meituan, a travel booking website, train ticket orders for the city on April 14 doubled the peak levels of this year's Spring Festival travel rush.
More than 120,000 tourists are expected to visit the city of just 4.7 million during the May Day holiday, according to the train booking website.
The barbecue joints in Zibo were quick to cash in on the Internet fame. Getting a table at one of Zibo's prominent barbecue restaurants was not easy. By 8pm everyday, many establishments were out of meat and vegetables.
Yicai.com reported that in order to secure a dinner reservation at a reasonable hour, customers had to start queuing up at 4pm.
Nonetheless, as the number of visitors from across the nation swells, staff members are working overtime and restaurant services are stretched.
A netizen surnamed Zhang complained on April 15 that she had been subjected to coerced consumption while dining at a barbecue restaurant in Zibo.
"I spent a total of 106 yuan at the store, including 92 yuan on the barbecue and 14 yuan on beverages. But the manager refused to let me order independently, citing a lack of ingredients and too many customers," Zhang told the Xinmin Evening News.
The store owner told the reporter that "the customer flow that evening far exceeded the store's capacity, so we had to stop taking independent orders."
"We are working overtime every day to take care of our customers. It's too hard for us," he said.
In response, the local market regulatory agency promptly launched an investigation and, on April 16, issued a warning letter to standardize the pricing behavior of operators, reminding all merchants to clearly mark their prices and comply with the law.
Consumers have been told to contact "12345" to report any instances of unreasonable consumption.