The man on the screen smiles widely and makes appreciative noises, tipping his plate so that the viewers can see it in glorious Technicolor. He scoops up his next forkful, looks at it admiringly and then pops it in his mouth, chewing seriously…
This man is taking part in the new Korean phenomenon of performance eating, where people eat in front of a webcam and are watched by an audience that can stretch into the tens of thousands.
This new food phenomenon is called mukbang: a combination of the Korean word for eating (muk-ja) and broadcasting (bang-song) and it’s the latest form of reality TV to take the country by storm. Its popularity hinges on the performance nature of the spectacle, an exaggerated form of sounds and gestures designed to draw the viewer into the whole experience — eating without eating.
Performers emphasise every little nuance and focus on flaunting the food, teasing the viewer to the point that their mouth starts watering. In amongst the gestures, facial expressions and enticing noises come messages from viewers asking questions, passing comment and making requests.
What is the texture like? Can you say more about how it tastes? What does it feel like when you roll it around in your mouth? Interaction like this is a sign that a performance is popular which bodes well for the performer because appreciative viewers award ‘star balloons’ if they like what they see — and these ‘star balloons’ represent payments to the performer.
This is certainly an extreme way to answer the question ‘how’s your meal?’ and, as interested as we are in finding out about your experience, it’s not one we’ll be adopting any time soon. Instead, we rely on a range of feedback mechanisms to let us know how it’s been for you.
This may be via our online “Did we make you smile?” questionnaire, or by one of our people asking how your meal has been as they go past. And our restaurant managers check in regularly with our clients too, to get the very latest views on our food. We’re committed to getting to the heart of what you’re looking for when you come to eat with us and are always ready to listen.