traditional local cuisine－rice with salted pork and greens, the Cai Fan in the name－has ga
ined a good reputation for its traditional flavors and its striking interior design.
Instead of rows of tables that can seat four or more people, the restaurant has just one long table
divided into individual booths by boards. When seated, diners face a small curtain-covered window, wh
ere the food is served anonymously. Each booth contains coat hangers and charging sockets.
“I wanted to let our customers know that a single person also needs to eat well, so I designed things this wa
y to make them feel less ashamed about eating alone. One person can eat out and enjoy it,” said Li Le, the owner.
Many diners have left supportive comments about the eatery on Dazhong Dianping, an online restaurant review platf
orm. “With one person, one booth, eating alone is no longer embarrassing. A bowl of fragrant rice with a bowl of re
freshing mung bean soup provides a very comfortable dinner here,” commented a customer called Kobayashi1214.
“Chinese culture is family-based. Everyone wants to have a group of people eating toget
her, so eating is more of a collective behavior. People either eat with family members at home or with colle
agues and clients at work,” said Cai Yani, who has directed a series of short videos about solo dining.
Eating together is considered crucial for family bonding. On a typical Chinese dining table, one rarely finds dishes for indi
viduals; instead, there is usually a range of dishes－meat, fish, vegetables and soup－for everyone to share.
Restaurants usually boast round tables with a rotatable surface, known as a “lazy Susan” in the West, to make sharing easier.
The move away from the traditional sharing approach is largely due to a demo
graphic shift in the country, especially a sharp rise in the number of unmarried people. Statistics from the Mi
nistry of Civil Affairs show that more than 200 million people were living on their own in 2017.