To weather Japan's coronavirus crisis, restaurants embrace takeout services and seek regulars' support
Japan Times -- Mar 30
Restaurants in Japan are navigating rough waters amid the COVID-19 pandemic, inspiring new ideas as they try to come up with ways to remain afloat.

As the virus spreads, more people are refraining from dining out, especially in big gatherings. This has led to cancellations of both welcome and farewell parties that are commonly held this time of year.

According to a report released on Thursday by TableCheck Inc., the average daily number of reservations this month at 4,347 establishments it surveyed plummeted 40 percent on the year. The bigger the group of diners, the more likely they were to drop their reservations. The percentage of reservations being cancelled was up about 3.6 times for groups of 10 or more, compared with early January before the outbreak, according to the restaurant reservation service provider.

This weekend was likely even harder for the industry after Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike urged residents to stay home amid a sharp rise in cases. A potential lockdown of the capital also threatens to cut off their customers.

To shore up flagging revenues, some businesses are already branching out into takeout, while others are seeing unusual kinds of support from their patrons.

A French restaurant and bar named Scene near Hachioji Station on the Keio Line earlier this month launched takeout and delivery services. Due to reduced traffic and numerous cancellations, the restaurant suffered about a 70 percent year-on-year sales drop this month.

It is selling ¥1,000 boxed lunches, or bentos, and more luxurious ¥19,800 platters containing ise-ebi Japanese spiny lobster. Manager Naotaka Yoshimi said one aim is to “contribute to sales,” which is actually working out to some extent. He envisions the luxury platter being served to celebrate school graduations and other big events for customers who are stuck at home.

Through Wednesday, it sold 220 of the ¥1,000 bento boxes and five platters, Yoshimi said.

News source: Japan Times
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