Free noodles for the needy

CNC report from Hangzhou
Added On July 13, 2013

The city of Hangzhou in east China's Zhejian Province has a noodle restaurant that's become very popular, but isn't making money. That's because it's not meant to.

Chengliang Noodle Restaurant doesn't do any advertisement or promotion. What it does is giving free meals to the needy.

Lifestyles takes you there.

The restaurant is named after its owner. From a distance, there's nothing extraordinary about this noodle shop.

But if you look closely, just outside the door an announcement reads "Whenever you find yourself in difficult times, feel free to come and have free noodles here at Chengliang Noodle Restaurant."

Inside, you can find photos on the wall of the owner working on public welfare projects.

There's also a donation box and a bookcase for donated books. It's more than just a lunch house.

SOUNDBITE(Chinese): ZHANG CHENGLIANG, Restaurant owner
"I've been devoted to the public good for a long time. I always wanted to be a volunteer but I'm too shy to express the thought. So I started this noodle restaurant. I believe we can do some little things to help. And sometimes our customers come and donate books or money."

After two months of preparation, Zhang finally set up his noodle restaurant near the train station where the crowds gather, especially migrant workers.

SOUNDBITE(Chinese): ZHANG CHENGLIANG, Restaurant owner
"It's often reported that these workers leave home in search of a job with only one- or two-hundred dollars. Often they run out of money after several days and still have no job. Then they can come here and have a bowl of warm noodles."

Just one day after the restaurant opened, the first book donor showed up.

She is a middle school student named Hu Yuru.

SOUNDBITE(Chinese): Hu Yuru, Book donor
"I read about this noodle restaurant before in the newspaper. I think donating books is a way to help children in poor mountainous areas."

The same day, a migrant worker from Guizhou Province came to donate money despite the heavy rain. He gave the waiter about 15 dollars in the hope that it could do something for people in need.

SOUNDBITE(Chinese): ZHANG CHENGLIANG, Restaurant owner
"He trusts me to donate the money because he believes this is a good platform. He might feel embarrassed to donate in a normal way. But in other words, this is what we want to see."

Zhang's establishment is supported by the citizens. Because of him, eating noodles is a new way to do some good.

SOUNDBITE(Chinese): MR. HAN, Local resident
"This restaurant is nice. It's very popular because you might say it's a way to give a rose to someone else while keeping the fragrance on your hand."

SOUNDBITE(Chinese): HAN KAI, Local resident
"I think it's good to promote and participate in the public welfare."

Not long ago, a homeless man ordered a bowl of noodles that cost nearly 6 dollars. No one thought twice about him eating for free.

SOUNDBITE(Chinese): ZHANG CHENGLIANG, Restaurant owner
"After eating, he gave me 2 dollars and said we should at least recover the cost of the noodles. He ate half of the food and asked to take out the rest. We added more soup and packed it for him. We open the door for him, said take care, and at that moment he turned and looked at us with tears in his eyes."

Zhang has invested more than 40 thousand dollars in his noodle restaurant. But so far, the restaurant is still losing money. That hasn't discouraged Zhang from doing good.

SOUNDBITE(Chinese): ZHANG CHENGLIANG, Restaurant owner
"My public-welfare restaurant maybe the first one in Hangzhou, but what if we could have more restaurants like this, run in this way, offering free meals for those going through tough times?"

Zhang said in the near future he wants to open 10 more noodle restaurants like this in Hangzhou.

For now, he just wants to get the shop to break even. In the long run, he hopes to donate money to build one Hope Primary School in poor areas every year.