Armed robbers broke into a Chinese restaurant in West Philadelphia early this morning and held a family of three hostage for almost 2 ½ hours until a police convinced them to surrender, officials said.

Police said three men, two of them armed, entered the Hong Heng restaurant at the corner of Ogden and 42nd Streets in the Belmont neighborhood about 12:40 a.m. Inside were the couple in their 40s who own the restaurant and live with their young daughter in an apartment on the second floor of the building.

Meanwhile, a passerby who saw the men enter the eatery believed the situation appeared suspicious and notified police.

Police said the responding officer found the restaurant's steel gate down, but not all the way. He saw three men with hoodies inside and heard screams..

The officer called for a SWAT team and police surrounded the building.

Police Chief Inspector Scott Small said a police negotiator made contact with the barricaded robbers and convinced them to release the three hostages before surrendering minutes later.

Police said it appeared the father had been pistol whipped and was treated at the scene for a bump to the head.

The identities of the three suspects and charges against them have not been released yet.