TRENDING — 14.05.2020

Enbiun develops concepts from A to Z: strategy, design, food and drinks, branding and interiors. Concepts will have to be adapted during and after the corona time.

Restaurants, terraces and beach bars may open again on 1 June under certain conditions. A maximum of thirty people (including staff) may enter the catering establishments, subject to the 1.5-meter measure. The condition is that all guests can sit at a table. Creative director David Kulen & partner of enbiun, Jan Willem van de Sande, spoke during a webinar of Bidfood Netherlands on April 23th about 'how Japan & and the rest of Asia are dealing with the epidemic, and how we can learn from it'. In this article we have summarized tips & tricks.


Japanese hospitality is Omotenashi!

Throughout Japan you can find a great hospitality concept, which is integrated from a luxury sushi bar to a simple ramen bar at a metro station. That concept has a word: Omotenashi. It is a culturally created concept, which originated from the tea ceremony. It not only applies to the service employees, it also concerns customers. People are brought up with this. Care for the environment, respect for each other and politeness is the common denominator. It is the basis of hospitality in Japan.


Every restaurant, shop, or even garage, the entire staff greets you. You enter and you are welcomed by 4 or 5 voices. This immediately sets a great tone. It's about respect, but also about feeling welcome. Everyone wants to help you have the best experience. That is very tangible in Japan.

"Care for the environment, respect for each other and politeness is the common denominator."

You can also find it in small details; in many restaurants you will find baskets next to and under the tables, where you can put your jacket or bag, so that they will not lie dirty on the floor. That hygiene level, which also translates into small things, are an extra touch on service.


How does Japan handle hospitality at a distance?

In Japan, concepts are very clear. A ramen bar, a specialist sushi shop or a specific sourdough bakery. This makes it small-scale. That clear and small scale makes it very easy to absorb for a customer. You see it in ramen restaurants, of which the concepts are very clear, without extensive menus. This makes the seat much shorter, making it manageable for the kitchen and for the visitor. Fewer people will be able to use square meters, but we still have to make money. This is a balance that we have to look for in our offer.


What you also see a lot are iconic catering concepts, where the brand is very strongly represented and the product is quite simple. For example the cheesecake bubble tea from Taiwan, which is a mega hit in Japan. At the Laforet Harajuku's Machi Machi café you are confronted with a large menu, how to order and how long it takes before you will receive your drink. It's super simple, because you can't sit anywhere and just take the drink with you. You have the whole experience in your hand. We will also need to get this kind of clarity in the Netherlands with clear yet simple concepts.


You know where you stand

We in the Netherlands can learn from how clear it is in Japan where you stand. An extensive wine list is now problematic because you have to explain it at someone's table. In Japan you have a lot of communication everywhere. Everything has rules and etiquette. It is interesting to think about how we can also apply this in the Netherlands. We are moving towards a reality in which we will have to define things and guide people. This provides a higher comfort.

Kaart waarbij je verschillende soorten saké’s kunt proeven.

This is a menu from which you can choose different sakes. They are classified by taste. For example, you can indicate 2 flavours, and then you get a saké that meets those flavours.

Bij dit self-service koffie concept wordt alles tot in de puntjes uitgelegd, geen medewerkers.

Or this self-service coffee concept where everything is communicated down to the last detail. There is no service employee.

Distance is not a reason for detachment

We will soon be at a distance from the customer. But distance doesn't always have to be negative. The Japanese service goes much further than the contact between employee and customer. This is also expressed in funny things. It doesn't matter how many stars a ramen restaurant has, you can find this machine everywhere. You choose your meal, pay, and wait for your food at the bar, while handing the receipt to the chef. The service is that you can watch how your meal is prepared. Even with distance you can build an experience, but you have to zoom in deeply into what your customer's experience is. In our work you call this a customer journey. Upon entering, at the bar, when they sit down, what do your customers experience?


Distance is sometimes a concept

Distance can sometimes become a whole concept. Japan is known as a remote country, where people do not have much psychical contact with each other. This is enlarged in this concept, where you order again from a same sort machine that you can find at a Ramen restaurant. You will receive a receipt, after which you will be referred to a place in a niche. You then fill in a form with all kinds of preferences. You pass that form through the hatch, after you have pressed a button, and eventually the curtain opens with your dish that you have ordered. So you have no contact with anyone, you only see the hands of the service employee. It may sound a bit dystopian, and maybe even a little scary, but it is a humorous way of applying social distancing.


All this could be the manual we are re-writing in the Netherlands. The guest's journey must be rewritten. You have to describe the customer journey for yourself from A to Z and adjust and / or improve the concept around it.


Do you also want tips and tricks to rewrite your concept? And know more about how Japan applies this? Please contact David Kulen.

David Kulen
creative director & japan connoisseur

+31 (0)6 15 41 50 01