IKEA Shanghai has imposed a “no food, no seating” rule to discourage elderly people who are part of a dating community from loitering.
The store has seen a strange phenomenon of senior citizens descending upon its famed cafeteria to socialize and even find partners.
Locals said it occurs twice weekly, usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
China’s state broadcaster CCTV News reported that the elderly patrons would often buy a cup of coffee or some bread and “spend an entire day just chatting with others”.
They are believed to be part of a dating community, making use of their IKEA membership cards.
This week, the Swedish furniture giant put a stop to it by imposing a strict “no food, no seating” rule to discourage senior citizens from occupying canteen seats for “extended periods”.
In a notice posted at the entrance of the IKEA Shanghai Restaurant, staff identified an “illegal blind-dating group” and accused it of “uncivilized behavior”.
“The situation has adversely affected the dining experience and security of most of our customers,” the store said, adding that it had received public complaints about “spitting” and “quarrels and fights”.
“It is having a negative implication for our canteen’s operation. From today, the restaurant will only be for people who purchase their food first.”
The news has attracted attention from netizens on Chinese social media, with many in support of the elderly.
The move was also criticized by some elderly patrons, who spoke to local media outlets.