An Israeli restaurant came under fire after handing eight Chinese customers a 16,500-shekel ($4,376) bill. The amount shocked those familiar with the menu, knowing that meals from the establishment were relatively cheap.
The bill was published by the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association, Globes reported. The association penned a note that bashes the restaurant for suspected scamming of tourists:
“There may be a billion Chinese, but they may not all be suckers. These Chinese said they would not be back and would not recommend their friends to visit Israel.
“Naive customers are a very shaky basis for a business plan, and by behaving this way we are destroying with our own hands the budding potential of the Chinese market for Israel.”
Abu Ghosh, the restaurant in question, broke the sum down:
- NIS 4,000 ($1,064.77) for hire of a private room
- NIS 650 ($173.02) for hors d’oeuvres and salads
- NIS 5,900 ($1,570.53) for alcohol
- NIS 3,150 ($838.50) for main courses
- NIS 1,350 ($359.36) for desserts
- NIS 1,500 ($399.29) service charge
Using current estimates, that’s about $4,405.47.
Jawdat Ibrahim, one of the restaurant’s owners, defended the bill by explaining that the tourists were given special treatment. He said they arrived at 3 p.m. on a Friday and stayed until midnight:
“I received a telephone call that a group of Chinese tourists wanted to come to the restaurant, on condition that we close the restaurant to all other diners. We are talking about a Friday, and Friday and Saturday are the busiest days of the week for us. We have room for 300 people, and we closed it all for this group, which had the whole place to itself.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Ibrahim blamed “envious” rivals for sparking controversy:
“Abu Ghosh restaurant is very famous. For 25 years it is has been known not just domestically but internationally. There are people who are envious of the fact that tourists make a pilgrimage to Abu Ghosh and not to some other establishments, including in Tel Aviv.”
Despite the backlash, Ibrahim isn’t satisfied:
“The truth is that I thought that they should pay much more, since I had no other diners that day. They enjoyed themselves and thanked me, and now, two weeks later, they’re trying to besmirch us.”
But IITO Association CEO Yossi Fattal has a different story. Following further checks, he said the tourists arrived after 7 p.m., and that the restaurant was not closed for them. In addition, the meat was not specially ordered, as it was placed even before the group arrived.
Fattal explained that they had to make the incident public in order to “illustrate the importance of fair and polite treatment of tourists.” He added that incoming tourism represents about 15% of total exports of Israel’s services.