Diners have the stomach for the fight to save leftovers, report Cecily Liu in London, Caroline Berg in New York and He Na in Beijing.
Every few weeks, Lu Jinhua's family meets for dinner at a restaurant close to her home in Beijing's Chaoyang district. But the happy mealtime almost always ends with an unhappy scene: Her children will insist that Lu leaves the table before she can embarrass them by asking to take the leftover food home in takeaway bags.
But on Sunday, the 63-year-old Beijing resident was delighted to discover that the restaurant had implemented a number of changes. A poster on the table clearly stated, "Save food, don't waste it". Instead of persuading customers to order a wide range of expensive dishes, the waitress suggested a small order that could be supplemented later if people were still hungry. At the end of the dinner, Lu's daughter even volunteered to ask the waitress for doggy boxes.
"This is the happiest dinner I had in that restaurant so far, and I am so glad to see these changes. I used to live in a rural area and I'm well aware of the hardships farmers endure," Lu said.
A campaign against food wastage is sweeping China, a country where 128 million people live below the poverty line.
Every year, food valued at 200 billion yuan ($32 billion) is thrown away in China. The volume is equivalent to the amount consumed by more than 200 million people during a 12-month period.
A proposal published in January, opposing waste, is part of a drive by China's new leaders to fight extravagance and advocate thrift.
Following suit, many provinces have launched their own, more-detailed versions. Central China's Henan province has ordered that business meals for cadres should feature no more than four dishes, and alcohol is prohibited. Meanwhile, the southwestern province of Guizhou has set a time limit of 45 minutes on meals paid for by the public purse.
The public has also adopted the idea, resulting in a surge in anti-waste rhetoric. For example, the Beijing Catering Trade Association, Beijing Cuisine Association and Beijing Western Food Association launched a joint anti-waste initiative in late January, which garnered a rapid response from many catering enterprises.