World News

French maids lure diners to cartoon-inspired cafe

TORONTO, Dec 15 (Reuters Life!) - A tiny eatery decorated almost completely in black and white is creating a big buzz in Toronto but it’s not the decor getting attention -- it’s the servers, who all wear French maid outfits.

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With servers in black mini-skirts, long socks and white aprons, the cafe is believed to be the first in Canada to mimic the cartoon-inspired restaurants devoted to “costume play”, or cosplay, that first appeared in Japan a few years ago.

Owner Aaron Wang, 24, who opened the iMaid Cafe this summer, got the idea for the theme after seeing a piece about a maid cosplay restaurant on the television news in China.

“I call them maids not waitresses,” said Wang, who moved to Canada from Beijing six years ago.

“They smile a lot and they are cute. I want somebody cute like the characters from cartoons -- big eyes, long hair and young.”

Cosplay, which originated in Japan, is a combination of the words “costume” and “play”. In cosplay, people dress as characters from Japanese animation, as well as graphic manga novels and video games. Cosplay can also refer to someone simply wearing a costume.

Wang wanted to open a restaurant that would be different from other traditional Hong Kong and Chinese restaurants in Toronto, a cosmopolitan city where two million of the 4.6 million people are foreign born. The largest minority group is the Chinese population, which is 410,000.

He ordered the costumes from Japan at a cost of about C$200 (89 pounds) each.

“I want people to come to the restaurant and to feel like home,” he said, adding that about 70 percent of his clientele is Asian.

The iMaid Cafe, which serves a mix of Hong Kong, Taiwanese and Western food, is situated in Toronto’s Scarborough suburb about a 30 minute drive from Toronto’s city center.

Waitress Cindy Wang -- who is not related to the owner -- has worked at the cafe since it opened and has encountered only positive reactions from customers.

“I like it here because the uniform is lovely,” she said.

Tania Andrade, 17, and her friend Benjamin Coutinho, 17, who are regulars at the iMaid Cafe and enjoy the atmosphere and the server’s outfits.

“A lot of people may tip them more for how they dress,” said Coutinho.