A food critic yesterday called for a boycott of Tripod King spicy hot pot (鼎王麻辣鍋) and the group’s other restaurants following a string of scandals involving false advertising.
The restaurant group first became embroiled in allegations of deceptive advertising last month when it was accused of using artificial ingredients in its spicy hot pot, instead of all-natural ones as it touted.
It was followed by charges that the truffle salt that Yan Syuan — the group’s barbecue restaurant in Greater Taichung — claims is produced by its own factory was also a sham. There was no factory that produces the salt with the prized comestibles.
Another affiliated restaurant, Wulao Hot Pot, had also boasted that its signature “ice-cream tofu” was the product of a long-lost technique learned from an elderly Japanese woman. The group’s president admitted it was a fabrication early this month.
Food writer Chang Yu-ting (張瑀庭), accompanied by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國), yesterday joined the chorus of criticism, saying she was once invited to write about and promote the hot-pot restaurant, but decided not to after visiting it.
“I found that the so-called natural [ice-cream] tofu was not what it claimed to be. After questioning the manager, it was disclosed that fish paste was added ‘to suit Taiwanese people’s taste,’” Chang said.
“I wrote on the customer feedback form that ‘the tofu was too fake; the smoothie was too fake. All were full of artificial condiments. Please stop deceiving customers with made-up statements in the advertisement,’ but the restaurant did not make any correction,” she added.
Liu said he felt concerned when he saw people continue to line up at these restaurants and lashed out at the health authority for failing to effectively supervise the central kitchens of food-service companies.
“Food manufacturers and providers, including restaurants like Tripod King, convenience stores, schools, the military, fast-food chains, bakeries or even department store food courts, operate central kitchens to promote efficiency and cost-savings by centralizing procurement and cooking,” Liu said.
“When I asked the relevant ministries who are in charge of these central kitchens and how they are supervised, not one official could provide a definite answer,” he said, adding that he has urged the health authority to announce standard operating procedures for management within three months.
On Thursday, the Consumers’ Foundation slammed the government for giving Tripod King a “light penalty” for false advertising, saying that the NT$3.8 million (US$125,000) fine was nothing compared with the group’s annual revenue of NT$1.3 billion.
The foundation also fumed over the compensation plan the restaurant group has offered — in the form of “discounts and gifts for customers.”
“Cash refunds are not offered, and the restaurant can attract even more customers with its current [compensation] plan — not to mention its ridiculous requirement that customers go back to the outlet they patronized to claim compensation,” it said.