North Korean restaurants offer free pizza to attract customers

Seol Song Ah  |  2017-01-05 15:42
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The recent three-day holiday in North Korea ushered in a wave of activity at the markets, which remained open for its duration.

Daily NK sources report that upper-class restaurants in the provinces, particularly around Pyongsong of South Pyongan Province, have started offering free pizza to attract customers.

"Pizza only used to be served at restaurants in Pyongyang, but shortly thereafter made its way to the provinces, and now we can enjoy it for free at some of the nicer restaurants. They are offered as an appetizer before the primary fare and people are absolutely loving it, a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on January 2.  

Pyongsong is a fulcrum for market activity and a hub for wholesale goods located close to Pyongyang, with thousands of merchants coming and going every hour.

Upper-class restaurants around the station, square, and markets have begun offering free food to attract affluent merchants and executives.

There are about six prestigious upper-class restaurants in Pyongsong, all located in the city center. These restaurants are popular local haunts and furnished with modern interiors and a wide-ranging menu that includes Western cuisine. Long lines can be expected for those wishing to enter these restaurants on weekends or holidays. 

"Restaurants have been offering little things free of charge, like sunflower seeds, fruits or tea for waiting customers. But the stampede of customers flocking to the places that offer free pizza has encouraged competitors to follow suit," she said.

"Residents believe that if they eat well and wear nice clothes on New Years, that business will be good for them for the whole year. Therefore, many donju (newly affluent middle class) and officials will also try to get a take-out pizza on New Year's Day."

In North Korea, pizza is sold at around 3.50-7 USD depending on the quality of ingredients. The price is considered expensive for ordinary residents, and restaurant owners also find it costly to offer them for free. But the owners are becoming well aware that such money as an investment can help to achieve long-term benefits. 

"The owners think that they should provide classy food to attract customers and earn foreign currency. So they are offering special foreign foods like pizza in order to draw in customers, especially whole families," an additional source in South Pyongan Province said.

"The owners must have thought that offering pizza for free is not a waste as the average meal price for a three-person family at these upper-class restaurants is around 200-500 USD."

However, the free pizza offer has yet to spread to small restaurants, remaining beyond the financial means of many small business owners.

"There must be hundreds of small restaurants operating without signboards in every corner of every alleyway in Pyongsong City," she said, "but offering classy food for free such as pizza is something thats only done at the high-class restaurants for now."

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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