23 Seats in Beijing is not your ordinary Lanzhou noodle restaurant. It represents the sweeping wave of the "single economy." It is a trend that began in Japan and has spread throughout Asia, gaining even more traction during the COVID-19 pandemic. CGTN Host Tian Wei met the owner of 23 Seats to share a meal.
Sun, who hails from Lanzhou in Gansu Province, is the founder of 23 Seats. He adopted the solo-dining experience from Japan. Sun says, "Eating alone has been getting more popular in China recently. It was first popular in Japan. For the past few years, eating alone has been the choice for singles."
The restaurant's use of partitions to separate customers was grounded in Sun's own preference to avoid other customers. Sun said, "I often eat out by myself before. But I didn't get used to sharing tables with strangers in a restaurant. I think a one-person stall can provide a safe and private space for customers to enjoy the food."
The stalls also provide a blueprint for how restaurants can better weather the pandemic. While other restaurants around the world try to enforce social distancing through spacing out customers, partitions can achieve social distancing while still maximizing seating capacity.
Solo-dining restaurants also enjoy other advantages over other restaurants. A South Korean patron at 23 Seats explains, "I'm pretty happy to eat my dishes alone. First of all, I don't have to ask somebody to come up here. Secondly, I don't have to wait too long. This is because two or three people dining tables have a long waiting line. But I'm alone, so I don't have to wait for that."
Solo-dining can cater to single diners who will eat and leave faster, thus benefiting customers and restaurants alike.
Another diner at 23 Seats believes the busy cosmopolitan lifestyle lends itself to the single economy. "My friends and I are all busy at work and have no time to eat together. To be honest, I like living alone. I used to go to movies alone and even went to the amusement park alone. I think I have a high loneliness index," she said.
Apps that bring food and movies via touchscreen had been taking their toll on restaurants, malls and cinemas before the coronavirus outbreak. 23 Seats could just be the brick-and-mortar establishments cashing in on a growing "single economy."
World Insight with Tian Wei is an international platform for debate and intelligent discussion. It is the meeting point of both the highly influential and rising voices, facilitated by host, Tian Wei. It provides nutrition to form your own thoughts and ideas through 45-minute live debate and interviews.
Time (GMT): 1415, 2015
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