Cutting edge: How Japan’s “sushi tech” increases efficiency and profits


Sushi iPad! (photo by ITpro)

Japanese cuisine, especially Sushi, has attracted many health conscious eaters around the world. Sushi is obviously very popular here in Japan, but the cuisine is also way ahead of its food industry competitors in terms of technology.

A sushi franchise called Mawashi Sushi Katsu has installed iPads in all of its seven restaurants for the purpose of taking orders. On the sushi counter, there’s an iPad for every two seats, and once orders are placed the sushi is delivered to the customer on the usual conveyor belt. The iPad is also used in the kitchen to educate employees and to improve service and productivity.

Another kaiten zushi (roughly translated as “circulating sushi”) restaurant, Uobei in Shibuya, provides sushi for 105 yen per portion. The reduced cost comes as a result of installing touch panel devices, which support Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean. You can see the order process in action in the video below.

The sushi chain Kurazushi, with 285 stores in Japan (as of October 2011), is probably the most innovative of all sushi franchises. The Kurazushi smartphone app allows users to search for nearby restaurants, make reservations, and get coupons. Sushi orders are made using a touch panel device (just like other sushi chains) and the empty sushi plates are collected in a tableside bay. Plates are then automatically counted to calculate the bill, thus accelerating the paying process. There are also QR codes embedded on the sushi plates, which helps to keep track of how long the sushi has been circulating on conveyor belts.

After putting five plates into the tableside bay, customers can enjoy gacha. This is sort of a vending machine — and also the origin of gacha in social games — that gives out toys to kids. But it means that families are more likely to order by a multiple of five for their kids.

The video below shows a common device seen at sushi chains. It reads the IC tag embedded in plates to calculate bills. It’s pretty amazing, to be honest.

The very first conveyor-belt sushi appeared more than 55 years ago in Osaka. Since then much innovation has taken place, bringing a satisfying profit to sushi chains. Kurazushi alone had over 5 billion yen in profit as of year 2010, and if sushi tech keeps improving, I’m sure they’ll make even more in the future!