Cha chaan teng strikes back with CCTV photo of customer in response to online criticism

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10th April 2024 – (Hong Kong) A netizen sparked a wave of resonance among internet users by posting a list of six major grievances against Hong Kong cha chaan tengs (restaurants) on a popular social media platform. The grievances included complaints about unappetizing food, uncomfortable seating arrangements, and high prices. However, the cha chaan tengs were not pleased with the criticism and retaliated by posting screenshots from CCTV footage, targeting the male customer involved, which ignited a heated discussion among netizens.

The netizen posted their grievances and supporting evidence on a local active social media group. He mocked a plate of cheese-covered chicken chop with instant noodles, sarcastically calling it a “world-exclusive chicken chop in cream sauce with noodles.” He criticised the cream sauce, which seemed to be made from diluted milk and flour, lacking any hint of cheese flavour. He accused the restaurant of assuming that customers were fools and using low-cost ingredients, suggesting that the chicken chop was made from frozen, low-quality chicken. He strongly expressed their belief that they were being deceived.

The second complaint revolved around the dissatisfaction with the seating arrangements in cha chaan tengs. The netizen described it as a “world-exclusive training posture for eating,” pointing out that the table height was insufficient for comfortably tucking one’s feet under the chair. He complained about having to sit in an uncomfortable, bow-shaped position, despite the existence of other available seats in the restaurant, which did not provide adequate distance from neighbouring diners.

The netizen also criticised the “kindergarten-level culinary skills” of the cha chaan teng. He believed that although making a simple noodle dish might seem easy, it was challenging to make it unappetising. He further suggested that the owners lacked the passion and skills required to be chefs. As an example, he mentioned another diner who only ate the chicken wings from a plate of braised chicken wings with noodles, leaving the rest untouched.

The netizen expressed his discontent with the price of the dish he ordered, stating that he paid HK$58 for a plate of noodles with frozen drinks. He believed it was overpriced for the quality he received and criticised the restaurant for not considering the customers’ convenience. He also complained about the poor service attitude of the staff, often behaving rudely towards customers and showing annoyance when asked questions. Moreover, he mentioned the inconvenience of the payment method, as the cha chaan teng only accepted cash and refused certain denominations, forcing customers to withdraw money from ATMs and leave their valuable belongings behind. Lastly, he concluded that Hong Kong cha chaan tengs lacked competitiveness due to their lack of initiative and reliance on outdated practices, stating that they couldn’t compare to establishments in Shenzhen.

However, the situation took a surprising turn when the suspected cha chaan teng in question retaliated by posting a response in the same social media group. They included a photo purportedly depicting the appearance of the netizen and sarcastically commented on their use of Octopus Card (a contactless payment card). This further fueled the discussion among netizens, criticising the cha chaan teng for publicly sharing a customer’s image and accusing them of inviting their own downfall. Netizens condemned the cha chaan teng, stating that no one would dare to dine at their establishment if they posted CCTV footage without blurring the faces, and emphasised that even if the customer lacked manners, the restaurant’s response, claiming to represent the establishment, was ten times worse.