One Japanese Company Entices Workers with $1.22 Bottomless Steak

One Japanese Company Entices Workers with $1.22 Bottomless Steak

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Steak
Picture: jun / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
How do you incentivize workers? One company in Japan thinks they've found the answer: subsidized steak at the corporate cafeteria. Metal parts Castem offers bottomless steak bowls for just 190 yen (USD $1.22).

Cafeterias in Japanese offices are ridiculously cheap. One company uses leftover budgets to serve up luxury menus like steak and tuna sashimi bowls once a month for just $1.22.

Employees eat $1.22 steak

Bowls of all-you-can-eat steak are ¥190 ($1.22) in a company cafeteria in Japan, where workplace kitchens cook up hot meals for mouthwatering prices.  

“It’s crazy that I can eat this for just ¥190. I want to go for at least a 3rd round. I’ll eat this and go back to working hard again in the afternoon,” says one of the 300 employees enjoying steak at Castem, a metal parts manufacturer based in Hiroshima with international branch offices including the U.S.  

Company cafeterias in Japan like Castem’s can serve cheap meals because they are provided as part of employee benefits that discount half the original price. The company picks up the other half of the check as long as it doesn’t go over ¥3,500 per month.

Another factor driving down prices is the small amount of food waste. The cost of ingredients accounts for how much of it will go to the trash. Company cafeterias waste very little because their demand is predictable and steady, making it possible to deduct costs.

Splurging once a month

By strategically sourcing ingredients for cheaper, Castem’s kitchen leaves enough left in the budget to spoil employees once a month on what it calls “challenge day” with a “hearty meal plan.”

“Once a month, we have what we call a ‘challenge day’ when employees can eat fancy menus like all-you-can-eat steak, eel on ox days during doyo*, and tuna,” the company spokesperson Fujita Yuki told TV Asahi.

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(*Pronounced doyo-no ushi-no hi in Japanese, this occurs 6 times a year and is a period in which the Japanese traditionally eat unagi (eel) and other foods that start with the sound “u” in Japanese such as udon noodles. For 2024, the dates are January 26th, April 19th, May 1st, July 24th, August 5th, and October 28th. Doyo are the 18 days before the first day of each season. The ox day occurs every 12 days.)

On bottomless steak days, the cafeteria kitchen prepares over 60 kilograms of meat and about 30 kilograms of rice, onto which goes sliced steak, drizzled with sauce.

Another past example of splurge days is the live tuna-cutting show with servings of tuna sashimi bowls.

The Castem cafeteria is appetizing and entertaining, as much as it is supportive of employees who live alone and do not cook large dinners that leave leftovers to take to work the next day.

“Since I live alone, it really helps,” one employee said.

Top-down initiative reaps benefits

Picture: yosan / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Other companies in Japan have found success with creating flexible work environments and offering other benefits. In Castem’s case, its challenge day originated from its CEO Toda Takuo.

“It all began with the CEO’s desire to have his employees eat warm meals and feel full. We thought about ways to get everyone hooked and their stomachs obsessed. That’s how this event came to be,” head chef Morishita Yoshinori told reporters.  

It not only filled workers’ bellies but also improved communication across divisions, increased productivity, and attracted more job applicants.

Fujita said that “last year, the number of applications reached 800,” or 40 times more than two decades ago.

“Because we are getting more applicants from across different prefectures, we are surprised to see how the Castem name has spread so far.”

Despite the litany of benefits a splurge day brings, there is a line between fancy and downright unaffordable, which Morishita says he once stepped over.

“The most expensive meal was eel. We filleted each one and made eel bowls. That was the one and only time I angered the CEO. He told me that I went too far,” he said.

Sources

190円でステーキ食べ放題!うなぎ、マグロも…“豪華すぎる社食”で驚きの効果. テレ朝

社食の値段が安いのはなぜ?食の福利厚生を導入するために必要なこと. Edenred

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