In a marketing campaign to expand its customer base well into the future, a chain of Chinese restaurants in the northwestern United States, called Sichuan of North, is now offering a large discount to pregnant customers. Women with child receive fifty percent off their check, and that includes the all-you-can-eat lunch and dinner buffets.
Restaurant founder Chi Xiao, who immigrated to Washington state from southwestern China, appears in a television advert telling two smiling, visibly pregnant customers, in his distinctive accent, “Eat more! Pay less!”. The idea came when he and his wife, Li, were discussing the fact that babies in the womb can taste the food their mothers eat, and develop a liking for many strong flavours that enter their mothers’ digestive system. Mr. Xiao and his wife decided this would be a perfect way to gain more customers among Americans who are unaccustomed to the extremely spicy Sichuan cuisine, but are notoriously cheap and will eat anything at such an enormous discount. “We start them young, they love Sichuan!” Mr. Xiao exclaimed in an interview. At the same time, customers feel more cultured, he says, as they introduce their friends and families to the exotic dishes.
The technique (Phase One, if you will) is apparently working, as the buffet queue is regularly full of expectant couples, and not only those of Asian descent. One customer, Amy Warner from Walla Walla, Washington, said she has been eating there with her husband since the second trimester when they first heard about the discounts, and has grown to “appreciate the burning sensation” in her mouth and throat. Another young lady, Sarah Quincy of nearby Burbank, now in her eighth month of pregnancy, says, “I drink lots of milk with every meal – not water, milk works better – but I’m definitely getting used to the spices.” She also brought her friend Jamie Newman, who is newly pregnant and wants to try the restaurant out. “I figure if I can save money while eating tons of food this pregnancy, I might as well start now,” she says.
Sichuan of North also has something to offer their husbands. While not pigging out as much as their pregnant wives, they enjoy eating the food as a manly challenge. “This is way cooler than the Super Devil Hot-n-Spicy Wings challenge at the bar,” says Amy’s husband Paul Warner. They like to compare how much their eyes water, and see who can go the longest without a drink. “Your eyes just stream with tears, it clears your sinuses and everything – this stuff is hot!” laughs Sarah’s husband John Quincy.
We’ll have to come back in a couple of years to see how often these couples will bring their toddlers to Sichuan of North, but Mr. Xiao has no doubt the new generation will grow up loving his Sichuan cuisine.
“MaLaTang” by linan0827. Public domain, Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MaLaTang.JPG#mediaviewer/File:MaLaTang.JPG.
“Facing Heaven Chili,” photo by Mik Kocikowski (Mkocikowski), an employee of The Spice Shop in London, UK. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Facing_heaven_chili.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Facing_heaven_chili.jpg.