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[Corona ni Makeruna] To Fight COVID, Open Family Friendly Sushi Restaurants

Staying ahead of the curve and adapting to COVID-19, one Japanese pub chain is switching to sushi in its search for economic success in the pandemic.

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Inside Sushi no Wa, opened by the Watami group on December 8, Sumida-ku, Tokyo.

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Pub food or sushi? Watami Co., Ltd., a major izakaya (pub) chain, announced on December 8, 2021 that its first sushi restaurant, “Sushi no Wa” was opening in Tokyo the next day.

Izakayas have been struggling in the COVID-19 pandemic. For much of 2021, service of alcoholic beverages was discouraged. Bars and restaurants were pushed to close early, while business centers were deserted. 

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This new move is intended to recover sales. 

Catering to families, the chain will open stores by train stations and residential areas with a plan to expand to 100 stores nationwide in the next five years.

Watami group chairman and president Miki Watanabe speaks to the press on December 8, 2021.

Unlike conveyor belt kaiten zushi, Sushi no Wa‘s chefs will personally roll out the sushi. The price has been set to start at ¥96 JPY (about $1 USD) per piece. An extended menu with skewered chicken yakitori and chanko nabe (a type of  meat and vegetable hot pot popularly eaten by sumo wrestlers) will also be on offer.

The Watami group was running 450 Izakaya Japanese-style pubs back in 2019. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of customers has dropped since then. 

Changing its business format is the company’s approach to overcoming the downward trend. Currently the group is operating only 280 Izakaya pubs, while also diversifying into yakiniku Korean barbecue restaurants.

“I wanted sushi as another weapon to change the business format, in addition to yakiniku,” said company chairman and president Miki Watanabe in the December 8 press conference.

(Read the Sankei Shimbun column in Japanese at this link.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun