New Japan Food Terrorism: Domino’s Prank Leads to Store Shutdown

New Japan Food Terrorism: Domino’s Prank Leads to Store Shutdown

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Pizza biohazard - Domino's Japan
Picture: Canva
Domino's Japan is making headlines, and it's not for cheap eats: A new food terrorism assault led the chain to close one store - for good.

Everyone has their go-to comfort restaurants — those magical places where the food has the power to lift your spirits and bring all the positive vibes. Japan, of course, has its own special spots for that. But, you know how it goes – sometimes, those good memories can take an unexpected turn, especially when food pranks start making waves on social media.

Now, Domino’s finds itself on the list. While the chain would probably prefer to be known for its pickle pizza, it’s instead facing a threat to its reputation. The culprit? Food terrorism.

Brand-new food prank: Here we go again!

In a classic SNS food prank fashion, the viral video features a young Domino’s Pizza part-timer, sporting the iconic hat and uniform, playfully rubbing his nose-picked content onto the pizza dough. Shared on the official 爆サイ.com account on X on Feb. 12, the video reportedly captured the mischief around 2 am that very day. Domino’s swift investigations led to pinpointing the origin of the video – the implicated store in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture.

Domino’s finds itself in a tough spot as X users declared plans to switch to alternative pizza chains. The brand’s hygiene image is under scrutiny, with skeptics casting doubt on the maintenance of strict practices in other stores. Yet, some users commended Domino’s for its prompt response, lauding the administration for skillfully navigating the crisis.

With memories of viral food pranks still fresh, Domino’s wasted no time responding to the latest pizza scandal. The chain swiftly clarified that the dough in question was still undergoing fermentation and intended for use the following day. Without hesitation, they tossed out the dough and all associated ingredients and even closed down the entire store for good. Further explanations, public apologies, and commitments to pursue legal actions against the responsible employee followed suit.

“We sincerely apologise for any discomfort and inconvenience caused to our customers. From now on, the entire company will make every effort to avoid a recurrence and restore trust in our products.”

ドミノ・ピザ on Twitter: “当社従業員による不適切な行為についてのお詫びとお知らせ pic.twitter.com/nqp6yvYG8H / Twitter”

当社従業員による不適切な行為についてのお詫びとお知らせ pic.twitter.com/nqp6yvYG8H

Of all places, Domino’s

Domino's Pizza Japan ad
Picture: Domino’s Pizza Japan official Web site

The blow to the Japanese public hit especially hard this time, as it happened at Domino’s of all places. Believe it or not, Domino’s pioneered delivery service in Japan, catalyzing the acceptance of pizza as a daily dietary staple.

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Back in September 1985, when the first Ebisu store opened, per capita cheese consumption was just 1/20 compared to Europe. Surpassing expectations, Domino’s expanded nationwide, sparking the birth of new pizza delivery chains.

Since its inception in 1960 in a Michigan college town in the U.S., the concept of delivering fresh-baked pizza to people’s tables within 30 minutes has gained global success. Today, Domino’s boasts a staggering 20,000 stores worldwide.

The figures in Japan are equally remarkable. With a 1 billion yen capital, nationwide sales of 79 billion yen, and over 1,000 stores, Domino’s takes pride in introducing Japan to the pizza delivery culture.

Survey results from MyVoice.com, conducted between Nov. 1-5, 2022, distinctly credit Domino’s for its achievements. Surging ahead as the unequivocal favorite among Japanese pizza enthusiasts, Domino’s secured an impressive 31.8% of the votes, claiming the top position. Pizza La and Pizza Hut trailed behind with slightly over 10%.

Whether it’s for family feasts, social gatherings, or indulging in solo pizza cravings, Domino’s reigns supreme. Japanese customers appreciate Domino’s for its competitive pricing, tasty crust, and diverse menu, solidifying its status as their preferred pizza provider.

Food pranks in Japan are nothing new

Cheese pizza
Picture: monochrome / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

This latest food prank emerged a year after the uproarious sushi terrorism incident that shook Japan’s dining scene. In January, a viral video showcased a youngster licking soy sauce bottles and teacups at the renowned conveyor belt sushi spot, Sushiro, tarnishing the image of popular sushi chains.

Soon, disruptive videos surfaced from other sushi spots. Customers were caught putting unauthorized wasabi on sushi at Hamasushi, while others playfully placed soy dispensers in their mouths at Kura Sushi.
The trend spared no one, extending beyond these eateries to Yoshinoya, where diners used chopsticks to share pickled ginger, and at Ramen Yamaoka, where some boldly licked the lid of a water pitcher. And the list goes on.

The internet erupted with criticism as the identities of the responsible juveniles were exposed, leading to personal attacks and bullying. Many voiced discomfort, pledging to steer clear of these eateries. The repercussions were palpable in the sales of restaurants already grappling with the aftermath of COVID-19 and a global supply crisis. The economic blow from the viral food pranks was substantial.  Sushiro’s stock prices experienced a temporary 5% decline, resulting in losses exceeding ¥160 billion within a single day.

Despite swift apologies from the young culprits, citing naivety or a quest for social media fame, companies responded decisively. Massive transformations hit their stores, from halting conveyor belts to directly serving seasonings at tables. Kura Sushi went a step further, implementing AI surveillance to detect suspicious plate returns.

Legal actions ensued, with the Kura pranksters facing charges of obstructing business. Sushiro initiated a ¥67 million lawsuit against the minor behind the Gifu store incident. All these violations are subject to Article 261 of the Penal Code for property destruction and Article 234 for business obstruction, carrying potential penalties of up to three years in prison or substantial fines.

Onto the next target…or perhaps not?

It’s tough to predict if the current measures can truly curb future food terrorism. After the Sushiro incident, some wondered if legal action by Yoshinoya in 2019 could have deterred disruptive behavior in sushi chains. Yet, here we are, a year later, discussing another food prank targeting a different dining chain. It seems the idea that “crimes don’t pay” wasn’t the solution after all.

As the public braces for the next prank tempest hitting another beloved restaurant, there’s a call for proactive measures to nip the trend in the bud. Recommendations include reeducating staff and displaying signs in stores to reinforce dining etiquette, as well as establishing a robust crisis management plan. The success of the latter, particularly, is still to be determined as we eagerly await to see if Domino’s timely actions will enable it to navigate the storm.

Sources

[1] ドミノ・ピザが謝罪 問題動画の店舗を即日営業停止、生地は全廃棄「またバイトテロ」と批判も「対応速い」と賞賛の声も(2024年2月12日)Yahoo Japan

[2] ドミノ・ピザ、バイトが夜中に不適切な行為をする動画が拡散、おわび「法的措置を検討中」店舗は営業停止(2024年2月12日)中日スポーツ・東京中日

[3] 一番うまい!宅配ピザチェーンランキング!「ピザーラ」と「ピザハット」を抑えて1位に選ばれたのは…(2023年11月05日)Gooランキング

[4] スシロー迷惑動画で6700万円損賠請求、運営会社「影響は深刻」…少年側は争う姿勢 (2023年6月9日)Yomiuri Shinbun

[5] 寿司テロなどの迷惑行為めぐる騒動に欠けた視点(2023年2月18日)Tokyo Keizai

[6] 寿司テロやバイトテロに震える飲食業界 もはや防げない…リスク低減策を危機管理の専門家が指南(2024年2月9日)Yahoo Japan

[7] 【宅配ピザチェーン店に関する調査】直近1年間に利用した人は3割強。利用時の重視点は「味が好み」「価格」が直近1年間利用者の各40%台。2019年調査と比べて「価格」が増加(2022年11月30日)PR TIMES

[8] 「寿司テロ」世を騒がせてから1年 くら寿司、スシロー、はま寿司の対策で迷惑行為は減ったか(2024年2月8日)JCAST News

[9] スシロー迷惑動画で損害賠償どうなる? かつてバイトテロで閉店したそば店の「200万円で和解」が基準か(2023年2月10日)マネーポスト

[10] スシロー、吉野家への「迷惑行為」に断固たる措置の意義。外食テロの抑止力なるか(2023年02月16日)飲食店ドットコム

[11] 「もう安心して食べられない」 「回転寿司」Twitterトレンド1位に SNSで拡散“寿司テロ動画”に批判相次ぐ(2023年01月30日)IT Media News

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