Complaints about the food inside the "closed loop" have been mounting, with athletes, media and other personnel posting on social media about the lack of quality, variety, or healthy choices at the available restaurants, including the canteen at the Main Media Centre (MMC).
One hotel manager even admitted to CNN that the food in one of their own restaurants is “disgusting.”
Fresh fruit is hard to find, and no snack items or hot food are allowed to be delivered to guests into the bubble from outside. The only shop in the MMC sells low-quality packaged snacks, a small number of toiletry items, and Chinese beer – and the shelves are often half-empty.
Those who were able to visit Beijing before the pandemic have lamented their disappointment about the poor choices available in a city that is famous for its excellent food.
Even the much-touted, robot-powered restaurant at the MMC is often overcrowded with people taking videos for social media, and they warn customers that it could take 40 minutes to be served.
And despite the robot-powered food delivery system – which lowers plates of food via a wire from purple pods that slide along the ceiling – the rest of the operation still runs in a far less futuristic way, with customers paying in cash or credit card at the till and staff in some sections hand-delivering the trays of lukewarm dumplings that were made by the robots.
The robot cocktail bar is often closed, and on several visits, the machines had run out of ingredients, so the staff on site reverted to making the drinks the old-fashioned way.
The dinner buffet at the Shangri-La Hotel – which includes good quality Chinese dishes and international options – and the restaurant at the Marco Polo Hotel are among the only places inside the "closed loop" escaping major criticism of their food. But they come at a cost -- notably a price tag of more than $60 per head for the Shangri-La buffet.