Tokyo Table Trip

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A new service called "Shokuoku," or food auction, is currently being debated in Japan. Nine difficult-to-reserve restaurants (Sushi Saito, Sushi Shunji, Chiune, Aca, Seizan, Saika, Takiya, Gourmandise, and Kyotenjin Noguchi) are planning to participate in this service, which will allow members to buy seats for a specific date through an auction system.

With more than 1,000 members already registered, it is expected that seats will sell at a very high price.

The key point is that the seats available by auction will be decided by the restaurants, not by customers. Restaurant owners are saying that the program's goal is "to help improve conditions in the restaurant industry," but if they want to increase sales, why not simply raise prices? Am I the only one who thinks so?!

I think it's not appropriate to raise prices, effectively without any limit, by taking advantage of the "difficulty of making reservations" with a small number of customers. Looking at the line-up of restaurant faces participating in this service, many people enjoy a personal relationship with the Sushi Saito group, which makes me feel this is just a "money-grab."

In Japan, there have been a lot of negative reactions, and I have heard quite a few people say, "I will never go to such a restaurant again." This kind of auction service was expected to appear sooner or later, but do you really want to use it?

Well, there may be people who want to visit Sushi Saito once, even if they have to pay 500,000 yen, so it could be a good service for those people.

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https://shokuoku.com/

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kanivour

https://www.instagram.com/kanivour/

For those who are curious,

Closing prices for the auctions:

Saito, 2 seats - 400,000
Saito, 1 seat - 207,000
Saito, 1 seat - 190,000
Aca, 2 seats - 412,000
Saika, 2 seats - 86,000

about 2 months ago 1665997777

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User default d6f8776075bbcbf91b3886fd7b0aeb86c94956e290bd9b9223466618a8cd47a2

guest

That is madness! People are paying for the whole saito counter for a mere 2 seats.

about 2 months ago 1666002044
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guest

Indeed, it’s not that hard to arrange a buyout at Saito

about 2 months ago 1666007482

guest

some the auctions are live now. Very suspicious, opaque system - no info on starting price, no bid history, and I dont even see when it will end.

about 2 months ago 1665529582

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Just_Ingest

IG: Sushisibz

There is a lot of good discussion here. My question to all: how important is developing a rapport with the chef to you? As Saito-san mentioned in his article on Hashiguchi, "Owner Affinity" is quite an important thing. If you have a regular place you visit (even outside of Japan), you KNOW this to be true. More likely than not, the chef will remember your preferences and interact pleasantly with you, at a deeper level than if you just visited the restaurant once.

While I would obviously never pass up on an opportunity to visit somewhere like Sugita, the difficulty of securing reservations + his already established clientele means that I'll never be able to establish a close relationship with the chef. If I had the chance to dine there, it would probably me more of a one-off gastronomic experience than anything.

On the other hand, there are many places (outside of Omakase and these auction systems) that are much easier to book. You may even find them more delicious than what Tabelog ratings deem the "best" restaurants in town. Given this, I would much prefer revisiting some of the places I enjoyed the most; on some of my revisit occasions, I remember feeling much more relaxed: not only had I been there once (so I kind of knew what to expect), but the chef was also more willing to engage.

In summary - 1) There are plenty of accessible choices in Tokyo that don't require Omakase, auctions, membership systems, referrals, and other things; 2) While it's not a bad idea to chase superstar restaurants (we - yours truly included - often fall into this trap), I also encourage people to revisit the places they most enjoyed, and hopefully develop a relationship with the chef. Maybe when their store explodes in popularity sometime, they'll still let you in!

2 months ago 1664173346

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paul_paulpiwat

I have to agree with Justin here. Japan is the only country I could think of in which most has counter seatings. Therefore, the chefs will have to interact with the customers for the whole meal. In contrary, the top restaurants in Europe and USA, the chefs will most likely chat with you for five minutes when they visit your table. So the chefs in Japan will probably want to serve their food to customers who them have prior relationship with or are able to appreciate their cooking. That is why they introduced the introduction only system.

When I visited those restaurants, the chefs were not discriminatory at all even though I was a single diner first timer gaijin. Once they saw that you truly appreciate their work and you are not just their for the IG stories, then they will treat you no different from their regulars.

When you have the chance to visit restaurants in Japan, try show your passion and interest to them. You never know when you will receive the help you need. It may come from completely unexpected places.

There are also many top class restaurants in Japan that are still under the radar and easy to book. So don’t miss out visiting those places :)

2 months ago 1664176959
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kk1337

https://www.instagram.com/kkinsta1337/

I may be too transactional but I expect the chef to give a good atmosphere equally without requiring patrons to invest in coming N times to build a rapport. For example you mention Sugita, in my experience he treats patron equally well, with similar intimacy, whether they are repeat or new. It also make me want to go again. Places when the chef gives a cold shoulder to newcomers and treats repeats extra-nice, make me want to not come back. Places I repeat myself are places where I feel a good atmosphere and good food that make me want to come back in a different occasion/season.

It likely also has to do with the character of the chef, which I guess we can now judge easily when it comes to the list of the participants in the above screenshot lol.

2 months ago 1664177483
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guest

Yee How here, sorry can't remember my login details. Fatherhood is taking its toll on me.

I agree with Justin, it's "fun" to chase superstar restaurants but it is not the end of the world if you don't dine there.
There will always be superstar restaurants before and after your time on earth. If the superstar place is bookable by a hotel concierge, consider it a bonus. If not, just move on. You have far more important things to do in life.

Just explore all the places you are interested in and are bookable and keep on revisiting the ones which you really like.

I will divulge my personal favourite restaurant is sushi takaoka. I have revisited it every trip since the first time I went there. Solid consistent food(great sushi, but may not be the best sushi out there), accept kids at certain timings ,reasonably priced during this sushi boom, comfortable environment, shy and humble chef and super easy to book(you can just book via tablecheck(no funny nonsense like camping for omakase to open or using this shokuoku service or paying inflated prices to tableall). Abit too much free advertising, but I sincerely respect how he runs his business.

For the record, I have gone to a few of the restaurants in shoukuoku's list, they seem to be decent folks. I don't even think it matters to us how they choose to "sell" their seats. If you don't like it, just don't use this service. It is purely business and it is up to them how they would want to ensure their seats are fully occupied. If few people uses it, it will eventually fold. Though I do see there is a market of this service especially for influencers, I don't think it will seriously matter to most of us.


2 months ago 1664187092
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guest

I disagree that it doesn't matter. If this was done in any other country it would be totally unacceptable and huge criticisms. But because it's Japan everyone just accepts it.

2 months ago 1664188875
User default d6f8776075bbcbf91b3886fd7b0aeb86c94956e290bd9b9223466618a8cd47a2

guest

If you do not agree, you always has the option to not visit Japan. Maybe one day, things will change but just probably not in the near future.

2 months ago 1664189767

ChuToroZuke

I don't like this concept either, let along any tech company trying to sweep up reservations to resell, regardless what country they are in. It is a sad day when restaurant reservations are being treated like limited edition rare handbags, extremely prized wines and sake, concert tickets, or the latest holiday fad gadget, in the name of profit. But that is classic human nature at its worst. It is unfortunate these esteemed restaurants are choosing to operate that way and hide behind the guise of fairness. That really speaks to their business philosophy and ethics. I'm perfectly fine not going at all to these establishments, since there are so many other great worthy restaurants out there with unique styles, characters, even mom & pop establishments, that deliver satisfaction and unforgettable unique experiences, that don't need to be a part of this joke.

3 months ago 1663736834

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User default d6f8776075bbcbf91b3886fd7b0aeb86c94956e290bd9b9223466618a8cd47a2

guest

Does the lottery/raffle system in Omakase ever worked? Anybody had any luck thus far?

2 months ago 1664167298
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guest

@guest would like to know this as well. Is the raffle only there to make it seem "fairer" but doesn't actually do anything? Or does it really work?

2 months ago 1664184954
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kk1337

https://www.instagram.com/kkinsta1337/

Just a handful of restaurants use the raffle system. Pellegrino used it but they seem to have stopped. Basically you get a ticket (you can get one per 24hr over a period of time). When the period closes, they announce if you won or lost. If you won, you get access to a window of time where only lottery winners can make a booking, a few hours before the official reservation opens to everyone.

Not perfect and not really used since the ~6months they created this feature. But still a better concept than auctions or big rush where everyone tries to connect at the same time when reservations open.

2 months ago 1664186813

guest

Most high end European restaurants is not “relatively” much larger than the Japanese restaurant. They at most can accomodate 2x-3x the occupants per night. Rarely able to turn tables during dinner due to the length of the meal anyway and they are also quite flexible with the slot (only limited seating per 15min frame so not everybody will come in together). Not to even mention the exponentially higher operating cost for running an European restaurant with larger staff and floor space. The best in class places is still hard to get in, and demand far outweight supply. But they are also happy to serve everyone. Its 2022, it just makes sense.

2 months ago 1664167216

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guest

You just said it yourself. 2x-3x more occupants per night. That is a very significant change in supply. Can you imagine the price of petrol if supply increased 200-300%.

Have you also considered that the population of greater Tokyo is 37 million residents. That's approaching the population of ALL of Spain, just in one city.

I'm not sure what operating costs has to do with this as this was discussion around seat availability not the profitability of European vs Japanese restaurants.

I for one don't like this system, and think Omakase has it issues. But I have yet to find a truly better solution amongst all this "complaining"

2 months ago 1664171919
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kk1337

https://www.instagram.com/kkinsta1337/

I think it's actually even more than that. Most restaurant in that list can seat less than 10-12 ppl (except Takiya), Most 3 stars I know in Paris can seat at minimum 30. In fact most could probably accommodate the entire service of a Saito/Chiune (~8ppl) on just one table. I don't think it is comparable :D

2 months ago 1664175566

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