Trust-based payment system not working out well for restaurant

 Trust-based payment system not working out well for restaurant

The owner of a self-service restaurant in Fujian province that trusts diners to pay what they want says he is running up a huge financial loss - as many people opt to pay nothing at all.

Five Loaves and Two Fish was opened in downtown Fuzhou in August, offering coffee, cakes and hot dishes. It has five round tables and six workers to cook and clean.

Patrons are required to wash their own bowls and plates after eating, and then place money in one of two boxes in a corner.

"It doesn't mean you can eat and drink for free, you just pay what you like," majority investor Liu Pengfei said. "The box is not transparent, so no one will know how much you paid. If you have the nerve, you can just walk away and pay no money."

It appears, however, that many do have the nerve. Despite being packed almost every day, he said the restaurant has so far lost 250,000 yuan ($41,100).

Peng Yong, another investor who also works as a chef, estimated about 20 per cent of diners pay nothing.

With its central location, the monthly running costs are 60,000 yuan, he said, while the average daily loss is about 2,000 yuan.

Liu, a 50-year-old interior designer, said the goal of the venture was to establish an honour system and encourage people to bring the virtue of trust back into their lives.

The idea, he said, came from the "suspended meals" projects operated in some countries, which allow people to pay for an extra meal or coffee that is held in reserve for someone in need.

"Hearing about it, I was deeply moved, and I felt a heartwarming sense of trust because of it," he said. He said the name for the restaurant comes from the biblical tale of Jesus feeding 5,000 people by multiplying fish and bread.

Although they are losing money, Liu still sees a silver lining.

"We initially expected the restaurant to stay open for two months, and now it has lasted three. The losses are not unbearable," he said.

He plans to chat with people who do not pay and encourage them to explain why.

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