Oct 14, 2016

    Ikea eatery bans elderly people who don't buy food


    A POPULAR spot for the elderly to socialise in Shanghai - a restaurant owned by Swedish furniture giant Ikea - is now off-limits to those who do not come

    to dine.

    Ikea told its Xuhui restaurant a week ago to prohibit people from occupying seats if they

    do not pay.

    Since then, the crowds have shrunk during

    the lunch hour by as much as half,

    say informal observers and a security guard.

    For years, elderly people flooded to the restaurant to meet friends or a future partner at zero cost - sometimes exceeding the 700-seat capacity.

    With an Ikea membership, which can be easily obtained with a Chinese identification card,

    free coffee is available.

    There were complaints from paying customers during the National Day holiday, said Ikea

    in an e-mail statement explaining the restriction

    that took effect on Oct 5.

    Said Liu Shihao, a college student at the

    nearby Shanghai Normal University: "It's a reasonable restriction. Ikea is a business for

    profit, not a charity organisation."

    After the new rule was announced, he managed

    to dine at the restaurant for the first time

    in the three years he has been on the campus.

    Some elderly people approved of the decision.

    "It's true that we gather here to socialise with

    our peers. But the last thing we want is to cause trouble and become a disgrace," said a 76-year-old man who wanted to be known as Mr Qiu.

    The retired automobile factory worker has routinely visited Ikea with his wife three times a week for two years to mingle with people their age.

    A cup of coffee is five yuan (S$1) at the restaurant for non-members, half the price at many fast food chains and one-sixth of Starbucks' drinks.

    But Mr Qiu said it was not about the money.

    "We've been to McDonald's and KFC. But... we feel like aliens there - surrounded by youngsters."