Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Restaurants Suspending Around-the-Clock Services

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Restaurants Suspending Around-the-Clock Services

Article excerpt

More and more operators of family restaurant chains are reconsidering their late-night services, including stopping around-the-clock operations altogether.

A key factor behind this trend is the recent decrease in customers due to changing lifestyles, combined with difficulties in securing sufficient workers in the industry. However, some people say there is still great demand for late-night services.

One operator changing its approach is Royal Host Co., which runs about 220 chain restaurants across the nation. In February, there were no Royal Host restaurants that still operated around the clock.

The decision was made after Royal Host reexamined the length of business hours at many of its establishments. Facilities that previously operated on a 24-hour basis now close at 2 a.m, while those that used to be open until 2 a.m. now close at midnight.

Royal Host started opening 24-hour restaurants in urban areas and elsewhere around the 1980s in the belief that they would attract many customers late at night. However, the operator has been reviewing this policy since 2011.

"There was a time when managers and other supervisors were assigned even to late-night operations. But we changed this policy, and chose to have them steadily assigned to the peak hours, including lunchtime. Priority has been shifted to offering sound services such as good-quality meals," said a spokesperson for Royal Holdings Co., to which Royal Host belongs. The spokesperson also said the new policy was intended to reduce employees' workload.

The policy change can be regarded as strongly influenced by the drop in late-night customers, said Sayaka Azuma, a senior analyst at NPD Japan Ltd., a Tokyo-based market research company engaged in surveying trends in the food service industry. According to an NPD survey, customers who came to family restaurants from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. accounted for less than 1 percent of the people visiting such facilities in all time zones last year. The figure is on the decline.

"One factor is that the continued low birthrate has led to a reduction in the number of young people, combined with changes in their lifestyle," Azuma said.

Young people often used to visit family restaurants in groups late at night, she said, but the spread of mobile phones and social networking services has made it easier for them to interact without meeting in person. This has contributed to the decrease in customers at family restaurants, she said.

"The declining population of young people has also made it difficult to secure people who work [at family restaurants], and therefore, the corporate sector may have decided to curtail late-night operations," Azuma said. …

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