Date
20 September 2017
Abalone is increasingly off the menu as mainland hotels revise their menus amid the government's austerity campaign. Photo: Bloomberg
Abalone is increasingly off the menu as mainland hotels revise their menus amid the government's austerity campaign. Photo: Bloomberg

Prawns replace abalone in recipe for austerity

You know something has changed on the mainland when a developer cannot open a eight-story clubhouse in prime Shanghai real estate to give the city’s elite the space to rub shoulders. 

Reuters reports that Franshion Properties was going to use a glass-and-steel building overlooking the Huangpu River as an upmarket spot for the upper echelon but instead plans to fill it with lower-end coffee shops and restaurants.

“Last year, we originally planned to open a clubhouse in the building, but it became too sensitive,” Franshion’s research and development manager Vincent Zuo was quoted as saying.

But that’s not all. Horror of horrors, abalone and lobster are coming off some hotel menus to be replaced by … tiger prawns. And the high-stakes staples of Remy Martin cognac and Kweichow Moutai are being shelved in favor of … one hates to think.

The decline in the finer things in life comes as Beijing cracks down on the excesses of mainland officials, ordering them to cut back on perks like dining and cars. Reuters quotes Grand Hyatt Shanghai’s manager Grace Tsou as saying that business clients are still spending but average per person outlays are down by about 30 to 40 percent since 2012 when the campaign began.

Some hoteliers are changing tack by focusing on the wedding business and some retail developers are turning their attention to the white-collar market.

But how will we know when the crackdown has run its course and too much austerity is enough? Will it be when catering for the government office party consists of a six-pack of Tsingtao and some kebabs from a passing street vendor? Will it be when a businessman comes calling on the authorities with some White Rabbit Creamy Milk Candy? Or will it be when officials ignore all inducements and offer a truly civil public service? 

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RA/SK

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