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Countdown begins on extinction of family restaurants

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Salarymen in their 40s and 50s still remember the good old days, when their parents took them out to eat. In those days, affordable restaurants with a wide variety of menu items were limited mainly to the “taishu shokudo” dining halls that operated on the upper floors of major department stores.

But those times are long gone, reports Nikkan Gendai (Nov 21) and omnivorous diners in search of curry with rice, “tonkatsu” (breaded pork cutlets), buckwheat noodles and the nostalgic “okosama ranchi” for kids -- invariably garnished with a tiny Hinomaru flag on a toothpick atop a tiny hemisphere of catsup-colored rice -- typically head for the neighborhood family restaurant.

“I suppose family restaurants, with their prolific mixture of Japanese, Chinese and Western dishes, are headed for extinction,” Seiji Kawakami, a business journalist, tells the newspaper. “Offering ‘everything’ is another way of saying ‘no character.’ With more people refraining from eating out due to the recession, restaurants won’t survive unless they offer dishes that people crave. That means the age of family restaurants is over.”

From the start of 2008, the food industry has been rocked by higher gasoline prices, which impacted severely on demand at suburban outlets, and several incidents of contamination by agriculture pesticides and other impurities that raised concerns over food safety.

According to the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Communications, expenditures in restaurants last September showed a decline of 2.2% from 2007, with Japanese cuisine down by 14%. A survey by the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry reported that 554 food and beverage companies nationwide filed for bankruptcy in the January-September 2008 period -- up 7.6% over the previous year.

Except for McDonalds, with its 100-yen hamburger budget specials, most of the industry is teetering on the abyss. Likewise for izakaya chains.

Kawakami notes that like family restaurants, the big chains serve too many different items. “The only survivors will be the specialty shops -- sashimi, yakitori and so on -- that can hold onto their customer support,” he says.

Before much longer, Nikkan Gendai predicts, salarymen will be looking back on the big izakaya chains and family restaurants with the same sense of lingering nostalgia the now reserve for the plebian department store dining halls of their childhoods.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

25 Comments
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Has anyone considered the effect of the parking police on the food industry?

The biggest addition to the cost of eating out is the parking charge which has to paid by the customer in the case of restaurants that cannot afford to provide free parking. In the case of restaurants that do provide free parking, the costs involved have to come out of profits, be passed on to the customer or be paid for by reducing the quality of food.

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This article makes no sense.

Moderator: Please elaborate. That's what the discussion board is for.

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Paragraph 1: In the good old days people went to family restaurants. Paragraph 2: Now people go to family restaurants instead. Paragraph 3: Family restaurants are headed for extinction.

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Nessie,

Exactly. In addition, a simple trip to a family restaurant on any weekend, holiday, or weekday lunch hour will show a packed place full of people stuffing their faces. I see nothing in Japan showing a decline in family restaurants...in fact they seem to be building more and more each day...

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I've been in Japan since before there were Denny's, Royal Host, Skylark, Jonathan's, and there weren't many so-called family restaurants, apart from the ones in department stores mentioned in the first paragraph of the story above.

I do think the family restaurants now have varied their menus too much. They used to be places where Japanese would go for a "taste of America." Then they started introducing Japanese and Chinese items onto the menu. Big mistake.

The Denny's in my neighborhood still does good business at lunchtime but it is never full at nighttime, except for Sunday nights. I don't know whether or not they'll become extinct, though. Some will probably close.

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Is it just me or are those places expensive considering what they serve and how good it tastes?? I looked at the Royal HOst menu a few weeks ago and was shocked at the price! Would rather go to a small cafe or family run place and get more food for half the price!

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Well spotted Nessie.

There was a very similar article a few months ago that said the same thing but I think it's just shock journalism. Not that I care about Familiy Restaurants greatly but even if their numbers were cut in half, there would still be half a dozen within walking distance from my house and I live in the "country".

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Personally, can't wait til Royal Hosts no longer blights the landscape here.

Can we get an article or two on the new breed of tachinomis popping up, college girls behind the counter, cheap swill, foreigners welcome...

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I think 'Joyful' and 'Gusto' are worse than Royal Host, myself.

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In what month was this article written? Oil is now down to $50 a barrel. If high oil prices hurt the restaurant industry, wouldn't low oil prices help the restaurant industry?

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“Offering ‘everything’ is another way of saying ‘no character."

No actually it means serving the customer more than a single choice of dishes. I've seen no restaurant or chain in the world set out to offer everything, it is impossible. This comment was made by someone with obviously no restaurant experience. After all the fuss made about Michelin ratings in Tokyo, Latin American cuisine becoming popular in Osaka, and Red Lobster looking to open a franchise in Aoshima (near Miyazaki)next year; this article seems to contradict the very point it sets out to prove.

Also if the recession in Japan is so bad, then why is Japan looking to advise the whole world how to get out of it? This writing or translation is incoherent.

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This story has absolutely no point ... and goes around in a meaningless circle. Keep such dross off your otherwise interesting site.

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God bless the Gusto Burger.But all the rest are meaningless. I think there was a problem with the translation of the article maybe?

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Saizeriya is not mentiontioned here, but after hearing that their pizzas were not only made in CHINA then hearing that their pizzas were contaminated with MELANIN, well no more Saizeriya for me. If these stupid restaurants want to have customers, they need to make sure they are not poisoning us! Also too many "family restaurants" have too many smokers, I hate smoking! I never want to endanger my family with smelly smoke, so this maybe why many of us are not going to these "family" restaurants as much as before.

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gaijin traveler i am in total agreement w/ya re parking probs/costs

El Bud - amen to no smoking in eateries! And so far, the Saizeriyas in our area seem to not be affected by there serious "OOPS" ... as far as we go? never stepping into that place again.

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Saizeria lost me way back when they started getting draconian about studying there.So u can sit there and smoke for hours ruing the air for everybody else but u cant study even when the place is half empty?If they made a rule u had to order breadsticks or something everyonce in a while Id almost understand it..plus Gustos pizzas are better anyway.

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Gusto's pizza's ARE pretty damn good compared to Saizeria's. I stopped going to Saizeria after the pizza thing happened. It's just not acceptable.

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Thanks Nikoniko! I just wish the folks who are trying to make money from the whole "family restaurant" idea, would get on with the program and understand that many families want to avoid smoking, specially when taking young children and understand that making us non-smokers have to walk through all the awful smoke to get to the back of the restaurant where the non-smoking section is located is kind of defeating the whole purpose of having a non-smoking section.

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This seems to be a case of the author losing contact with reality. The Famiresu I visit are just as busy as they have always been, but it is a different generation - many people have "graduated" from needing the services of the local famiresu, but the next generation is there to fill the gap. Some may fall by the wayside, but that is capacity, and not a cultural issue - remember the demographic issue affecting Japan right now!

Sadly the author has lost relevance in this issue, and wrongly assumes the world is ending. Bad editing? Letrs remember that Japan is an evolving society, anything that lasts more than 5 years is an "establishment". I dislike the food selection at Gusto, Dennys, Jonathans, etc, but don't they do a fantastic job!

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Bad news Gusto got rid of the GustoBurger!

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All I can say is I can't wait for all family restaurants to be smoke free - and that goes for Macdonalds too. Is it just me to do most give the best seats to the smokers. Every place I go, the window seats with the view are in the smoking section. bad enough that you have to put up with smoke, worse that you feel that smokers get priority.

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My local KFC is the same...is it because it's easy to close off?

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They've been struggling ever since TGI Friday's rolled in. For same price you can get more, better and free refills. Finally they got competition instead of underground cartel and price fixing.

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Skylark is number one. Esp. the one in Atami which is a big hit with the beach bunnies. That one will NEVER close.

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Well spotted Nessie. There was a very similar article a few months ago that said the same thing but I think it's just shock journalism.

My objection was less about factual accuracy and more about the lack of internal consistency and the slipperiness in defining terms.

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