Beijing restaurant provides free meals to people in need
Huang Yue

At Deshunzhai, an eatery in northeastern Beijing, if you're dealing with financial hardship and are unable to pay for food, all you have to do is ask for a combo. 

But this combo – Combo A – isn't your ordinary set meal, but a bowl of beef noodles worth 22 yuan, or around $3, and the restaurant foots the bill. 

Owner Yu Chenghao said he decided to give back, drawing on memories of when he was in college and was in need himself. 

"When I was a freshman in 2012, I lost my wallet and my phone while on vacation. I was helpless. Someone helped by buying me a bowl of noodles, and gave me some money to buy a ticket back to school," said Yu. 

Yu said the restaurant started to provide this combo in October, but his other restaurant, located in Wuhan, has been providing free meals since last year. 

A bowl of beef noodles at Deshunzhai restaurant, Beijing. /CNR

A bowl of beef noodles at Deshunzhai restaurant, Beijing. /CNR

Yu has told his staff that whenever someone orders Combo A, don't cast doubt on the customer's financial situation, as it could make for an embarrassing situation. 

The hashtag "Combo A" has been making waves on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform, raking in over 40 million hits. And local residents have also been touched by the act of kindness. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic has made this year difficult. Some people might be going through hard times. This is really heartwarming," Beijing resident Li Hongwei said. 

"Students like us don't have much of an income. This kind of love is really touching," said Beijing resident Zhao Hao. 

As Combo A continues to gain attention online, some worry the free meals could burden the restaurant. 

Yu said they receive only two to three such orders in Beijing and about 10 in Wuhan every month, which is fine for both restaurants. 

Some skeptics have even come to order the combo to see if it's real, and still gladly pay for it once their doubts have been resolved. 

"I work in an advertising company and I offered to help the restaurant promote this act of kindness. But the owner refused. He's not seeking quick fame. So I changed my way to support him – coming to have a bowl of noodles!" said Zhao Feng, a local resident who frequents the restaurant. 

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