Japanese news and the public at large remain aghast as some people commit breaches of hygiene for clout. Now, some are wondering out loud whether the conveyor belt sushi phenomenon hasn’t run its course. And at least one chain says it’s getting out of the business.
Sushi-Tero at Sushiro
Conveyor belt sushi has been a staple in Japan since the late 1950s. It’s now enjoyed the world over thanks to chains such as Kura Sushi.
In most conveyor belt shops, chefs make standard fair and place them on a rotating line. Customers take and pay for what they like. Many shops also offer special order service, either via a separate lane or (more recently) robot delivery.
However, the conveyor belt concept is under attack from the very people it’s supposed to serve. Pranksters keep filming themselves committing aggressive acts of “sushi terrorism” and posting them to social media services such as TikTok and Instagram for notoriety.
We wrote about two such incidents last week. In one case, someone filmed themselves sniping one-half of a special order off of a customer’s plate as it whirred down the special order lane. In a separate incident, a customer doused a plate of sushi in spicy wasabi. Conveyor belt chain Hamazushi said it would take legal action against both offenders.
Now, sushi chain Sushiro also finds itself under attack from “sushi terrorists”. An obnoxious customer filmed themselves touching their spit-riddled finger to a nigiri that was minding its own business. Then, he took it to the next level by licking the table’s soy sauce dispenser.
Like Hamazushi, Sushiro said they’d vigorously seek police action against all such offenders. A lawyer interviewed by Sirabee, Funabashi Kazuhiro, said Sushiro could possibly pursue damages based on property damage and/or obstruction of business.
Reforming the lane
On Japanese news programs, commentators are debating how to stop this spate of of sushi terrorism. Some have even turned their ire on the press and social media itself. They contend that all the publicity is giving the attention-seekers what they want.
Others have wondered whether the entire conveyor belt concept is itself the problem.
Different chains are responding in different ways. Kura Sushi says it’ll proceed with putting covers on all of its conveyor belt sushi dishes. The chain first developed the technology in 2011 and has tested it in several restaurants. The covered dishes also contain IC chips so that stores can monitor how long an item’s been on the conveyor. It can also detect when a customer has put an item back.
Others say they’re getting out of the conveyor belt business. Hamazushi said it already planned to remove its conveyors before this outbreak of low-rent bio-terrorism. It will replace all rotating belts with a speedy “straight lane” to zipline items that customers special order on tablets. A Hamazushi spokesperson says only about 10 percent of all their shops even have a slow rotating lane anymore.
Sushiro is temporarily suspending lane delivery. It’s asking all customers to order from their table’s touch panels instead. The chain says it’s still considering whether to keep the lane or do away with it entirely.
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