Yank Sing -- Anyone have an opinion on this? [San Francisco]
I actually haven't noticed any difference and I've been many times with groups both Chinese—both by birth and by descent—and many other ethnicities. There's no harm in market research and collective demographic data on your customers, but I do think this could at least appear discriminatory, and thus shouldn't be done.
That said, I've been to other Chinese restaurants and restaurants of just about every other cuisine where I have noticed or overheard different treatment for folks who were not of the local race (I studied Cantonese and Mandarin, and speak enough Italian and a bit of Japanese and Spanish). Discriminating against foreigners or giving better treatment to locals are two sides of an equally bad coin in my mind.
I don't think Yank Sing could get away with any real discrimination given the diversity of their downtown clientele. But I have seen such discrimination occur everywhere from cheap ethnic joints to places overrun by tourists in Italy to really expensive famous places (see L'Ambroisie, Paris, which I liked but...or any number of high-end places in Japan).
Yank Sing operates on an industrial scale with a lot of mixture when it comes to customers. I seriously doubt that they are trying to discriminate based on Asian//non-Asaian/child when it comes to price or service. More likely, it's a crude attempt to do market research: Percentage of non-Asian palates? How many kids on weekends?, etc.
Having said that, there is no doubt i my mind that Yank Sing gives preferential treatment to certain customers, like regulars, just like pretty much any other restaurant, but not because someone in the party looks Asian.
Nor do I think that there aren't ethnic restaurants that somehow discriminate based on ethnicity of the customers. I just doubt that Yank Sing is a place that would bother to deliberately engage in any form discrimination based on the factors mentioned given how successful is it and the scale of its operations. If you can do 1200 covers for brunch, why would any restaurateur want to discriminate against anyone.
I really agree with this, nocharge.
I am originally from Northern California, and as Caucasian as they come. I have lived in Japan since 1977 and my wife is Japanese. When we stay in SF for a month or two each year, we love to eat local Chinese good, and have even been to Yank Sing once in a group of ten people. Normally we go to cheaper Chinese places in the Richmond, and what usually happens is that my wife is mistaken for Chinese. When she doesn't respond to any Chinese language we are left alone, but the service is always good. Form reading the story, it is obvious that Yank Sing is doing a bit of crude market research at the register, and there is no reason to assume anything beyond that.
I think it's pure market research, and consistent with Yank Sing's strategy of giving its customers what they want, however inauthentic. This philosophy was explicitly stated in a long profile of the restaurant several years ago:
""I do what the society wants, not what the Chinese in China want," he says. "It's a philosophy.""