Finish your fish – or else.
The menu at Hachikyo informs patrons that they will incur a surcharge if they order but don’t finish the restaurant’s signature dish: “tsukko meshi,” a bowl of rice topped with salmon roe. That surcharge will be donated to the fisherman who hauled in the salmon.
“According to the explanation in the menu, the working conditions for fishermen are harsh and so dangerous that it’s not unknown for lives to be lost. To show our gratitude and appreciation for the food they provide, it is forbidden to leave even one grain of rice in your bowl. Customers who do not finish their tsukko meshi must give a donation,” writes a blogger who ate at the restaurant. (A waitress told the blogger that the vast majority of diners don’t leave any tsukko meshi behind.)
It’s not the first time restaurant owners have taken note of patrons’ behaviour and charged accordingly. An Italian restaurant in Washington State offered one family a $4 discount and free ice cream as reward for their “well behaved kids.” The Kings, who have children aged 2, 3 and 8, got the discount printed right on the bill.
The mother initially told the story on Reddit:
“We enjoyed a fabulous dinner sans crayons, iPods and other toys. We appreciate conversing with one another over dinner and always use our dinners out to catch up and do just that. I worked in the restaurant industry prior to having kids and so have high expectations of my children when we are out to eat. We never arrive starving and always tip well. I encourage all parents to take their kids out to eat so they know how to do so. This kind of reward was not expected and probably not something they do regularly. Frankly, it is not the kind of restaurant you often see young children at. Our server visited our table toward the end of our dinner and remarked at how the entire serving staff hadn’t even noticed there were young children at our table. They brought us a bowl of ice cream to share and we saw this little nugget of goodness on our tab at the end of our meal.”
The owner of the restaurant told Today.com that he often gives out free dessert to diners with well-behaved kids, but that this is the first family who warranted a discounted printed on the receipt. The kids sat in their seats, were quiet and said “please” and “thank you.” He complained about other rug rats running around the eatery, bugging patrons.
Predictably, the story has yielded criticism from parents who saw the discount as slightly unfair, as another instance of normal, sometimes tantrum-throwing children and their folks being maligned in public spaces.
“Kids aren't always so polite, you see, and the notion that you can always control them if you're a ‘good parent’ and that if you can't, you're a ‘bad’ parent or you somehow haven't taught your children good manners, is ludicrous,” Jezebel’s Tracy Moore wrote in a sprawling diatribe on the discount and public reaction to the story, which has been mostly laudatory.
While both restaurants’ efforts arguably are meant to make better patrons of us all, it does begin to feel like diners are on a stage.
Over at Motherlode, KJ Dell’Antonia hoped for a different kind of restaurant discount: “Somewhere out there, I’ll bet there’s a sympathetic server who’d be just as happy to offer a ‘tough day’ discount – while she wraps up a meal to go.”