Chinese buffets ask you to avoid waste

A pair of scales with rice and coins - ©Can Stock Photo Inc. / pisuIt must be a sign of the times, that Chinese buffets have started asking their customers not to waste food.

In case you are not familiar with the concept: Chinese restaurants in Germany offer you a buffet for a set price, from which you can eat as much or as little as you like.  The only thing you usually have to pay extra for are the drinks.

You might think of it as an “all-you-can-eat” type of offer.

Except that some customers take more than they can manage, meaning that food gets left on the plate and thrown away.

This is, of course, a waste and it must be something that is on the increase, as I have now seen two restaurants that have signs up about it.

The first one had a large sign over the buffet asking you politely not to take too much, but to come back as often as you liked.

The second one took a more draconian approach by way of a sign on the door, informing the patrons that they would be charged an extra 2 Euros per 100g of food left over.

Whilst I can understand the principle, I think this may be taking things a bit too far.  Perhaps a quiet word from the waiter might be better?  Or a polite sign at the buffet as in the first restaurant?  Although it is a shame that they even have to resort to such measures at all.

But considering the speed at which some Chinese restaurants clear the plates during the midday rush (resulting in the diners using multiple plates from the buffet), I can see discussions ensuing along the lines of “I was going to eat it, but you took the plate away before I could” to avoid paying the fine.

So whilst I would never myself consider intentionally putting too much food from the buffet onto my plate, I might invest in a pair of pocket scales.  Just in case.

Cola + Orange = Spezi

If you ask for a “Spezi” in a restaurant in Germany, then the most probable drink that you will be served is probably going to be a mixture of cola with orange lemonade.

A bottle of Spezi®However, the term is actually a registered trademark: Spezi® and belongs to an organisation called the “Spezi Markengetränkeverband Deutschland e.V.” which is a collection of 13 breweries that produce a drink by the same name.

Breweries?  Yes, not only was I not aware of the trademark until recently, but even less did I suspect that the drink used to be a type of beer.

And yet the product is familiar.  I have drunk products labelled as “Spezi” in the past, probably not realising that I was drinking something special.  It’s even a slightly different mixture, as it contains orange juice.

However, other products on the market using the orange lemonade recipe, “Mezzo Mix” for example, which is produced by Coca Cola, are still referred to colloquially as “Spezi”.  Not by their manufacturers, of course, but by the people buying and drinking them.

Some restaurants even mix it themselves from Coca Cola and Fanta, or Pepsi and Miranda, and write it on the menu as “Spezi”.  I wonder how many of them have no idea that they are using a trademark without selling authentic product?

There are also regional names in some parts of Germany for the mixture of cola and orange lemonade.  My favourite has to be “Kalter Kaffee” (cold coffee), but particularly confusing is the fact that it is apparently called “Diesel” in Cologne – anywhere else that refer to a mixture of cola with beer.

Spezi on the other hand can still mean a drink mixed with bier in some areas, or even with spirits.

So what does the unsuspecting tourist do when they want to try this particular German drink?

Ask the waiter would seem to be a reasonable suggestion if you are visiting someone new, unless the menu specifically refers to the trademarked drink.

I shall certainly be looking closer at any menus that I read in future to see which version they offer.  I’ve already found two interesting cases.  One says that their drink is “selbst gemischt” (self-mixed), and the other one avoided the trademark altogether and sold me a “Speetzy”!

Räuberteller

Many restaurants in Germany offer a free item on their menu.  It is usually hidden away at one end of the children’s section and is called a “Räuberteller”.

It really is free and almost looks out of place being listed with € 0,00.

But what is it?

Plate with cutlery - ©iStockphoto.com/DNY59

Put quite simply, a Räuberteller is a plate and a set of cutlery.  The word literally translates as “thief’s plate” and that is exactly what it is.

For small children who would not manage even a child’s portion of food (or prefer something else than the few items on offer), they can use the plate to eat small portions of food from their parents, grandparents, or other people who are in the restaurant with them.

This not only reduces the cost of the meal, but it also saves on waste if they are lacking in appetite.

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