hina’s most popular hot pot chain is feeling the heat yet again after a customer found a cigarette butt floating around in his soup.
The man, surnamed Liu, was eating at a Haidilao location in the Shaanxi city of Baoji when he noticed the unexpected ingridient in his bubbling broth.
Lu went on to call up the restaurant chain’s headquarters with an unusual list of demands, asking for only 1 yuan in compensation, but also demanding that the outlet close for one week.
Not surprisingly, HQ refused, offering Lu 1,000 yuan ($144) instead. Lu, however, has refused the offer. Negotiations remain ongoing.
Founded in 1994 in Sichuan province by a former factory worker, Haidilao has expanded around China — with more than 190 outlets in the country — and across the globe to cities like Los Angeles, Singapore, Seoul, and Tokyo. It’s become China’s most popular hot pot chain, not just for its food, but also for its attention to customer service. Those waiting for a table at Haidilao are offered free manicures and massages.
In 2018, the company made headlines with its impressive debut on the Hong Kong stock exchange, raising nearly $1 billion. This was soon followed by another headline-grabbing story of a woman in Shenzhen finding a “sanitary pad” inside of a Haidilao hot pot. Suspiciously, she then went on to find another pad at a different restaurant the following day.
Last year, a man admitted in court to attempting to extort Haidilao by bringing a dead rat into one of their restaurants, claiming to have found it in his hot pot, and demanding 5 million yuan ($740,000) in compensation.
Back in 2017, the chain managed to win praise in China for openly admitting that the kitchen in one of its Beijing outlets was invested with rats after reports emerged online. In a country where food scandals are rampant and often covered up, many found Haidilao’s forthrightness refreshing.