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'Sushi terrorism' leaves just one major conveyor-belt sushi chain standing in Japan

[Source]

“Sushi terrorism” pranks, which involve customers licking communal soy sauce bottles and tampering with dishes, have forced nearly all major restaurant chains in Japan's iconic conveyor-belt sushi industry to ditch their self-service models.

Key points:

  • Over the past year, “sushi terrorism” pranks have prompted four of the five leading kaitenzushi restaurants to shift from conveyor-belt service to make-to-order systems.

  • Concerns over safety and customer confidence drove the industry-wide shift to implement advanced technologies to combat tampering last year, reported NHK World.

  • Some prominent sushi restaurant chains that started the transition to make-to-order cited improved hygiene, fresher food and better customer service.

  • Despite the risks, Kura Sushi remains the sole conveyor-belt sushi chain operator among Japan's big five.


Big picture:

  • Pundits have lamented that the actions of a small number of individuals engaging in "sushi terrorism" have reverberated throughout Japan's conveyor-belt sushi industry, prompting a seismic shift in operational norms and customer service strategies.

The details:

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  • The conveyor-belt sushi industry, known for its innovative and interactive dining experience, allows customers to select freshly prepared sushi dishes from a revolving conveyor belt that winds past diners.

  • Recent incidents of "sushi terrorism" include customers licking communal soy sauce bottles, inserting foreign objects into food containers and tampering with dishes as they pass along the conveyor belt. Restaurateurs in the conveyor-belt sushi industry have condemned these disruptive acts as they compromise food safety and erode consumer trust.

  • Choushimaru was among the first ones to transition to make-to-order systems to address hygiene concerns, with plans to implement the new system across all outlets. Other restaurant chains eventually followed suit, adopting similar strategies.

  • In addition to abandoning the conveyor-belt system, these restaurants implemented advanced measures such as antibacterial covers, AI surveillance cameras and microchips on sushi plates to safeguard food integrity and reassure diners.

  • The ripple effects of "sushi terrorism" have been felt across Japan's budget restaurant sector, with chains like Gyoza no Osho and Ichiran implementing precautionary measures such as removing condiments from tables and limiting physical contact with utensils.

  • Industry resistance persists, with some operators hesitant to abandon conveyor-belt service despite the risks, citing customer preferences and operational challenges.

  • Kura Sushi, the sole major operator using conveyor belts, have fitted its plates with protective screens and installed alarms and CCTV cameras to watch over its food. “Conveyor-belt sushi is something we are proud of as part of Japanese culture,” a company representative was quoted saying. “We want to make sure our customers can eat sushi delivered on the belt safely and comfortably.”

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