Friday, June 24, 2005

The long tail also affects the codification of knowledge.

The subheading on history and economics is particularly interesting.
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Conveyor belt sushi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

[image of customer's view at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.]

Conveyor belt sushi is the popular English translation for the Japanese fast-food kaiten-zushi (Japanese: 回転寿司, literally: rotating sushi), also known as kuru kuru sushi (Japanese: くるくる寿司) or even Sushi-go-round (mainly by foreigners living in Japan). Kaiten-zushi is a sushi restaurant where the plates with the sushi are placed on a rotating conveyor belt that winds through the restaurant and moves past every table and counter seat. Customers may place special orders, but most simply pick their selections from a steady stream of fresh sushi moving along the conveyor belt. The final bill is calculated based on the number and type of plates of the consumed sushi.

Contents

1 Visiting a conveyor belt sushi restaurant
1.1 Special orders
1.2 Billing
1.3 Targeted customers
2 History and economics

Visiting a conveyor belt sushi restaurant

Genroku Zushi

The most remarkable feature of conveyor belt sushi is the conveyor belt with the many plates of sushi winding through the restaurant. The selection is usually not limited to sushi, but may also include drink in Tetra Paks, fruits, desserts, soups, and other foods. Beer can be ordered from the attendants, often served with an empty plate to keep track of the total bill. The conveyor belt sushi restaurants are usually at the bottom end of both price and quality compared to traditional sushi restaurants.

Popular restaurants serve the best quality, as the sushi gets eaten faster and does not get dry while rotating for a long time. Some restaurants may even have RFID tags or other systems in place to remove sushi that has rotated for too long. Some inexpensive conveyor belt sushi restaurants may imitate an expensive dish using less expensive ingredients. For example, they may replace chopped fatty tuna belly meat with other fish meat. However, some larger chains can still keep down costs for quality food by ordering in large amounts.

Special orders

If customers cannot find their desired sushi, they can also make special orders. Sometimes speaker phones are available for this purpose above the conveyor belt. If a small quantity of sushi is ordered, it is also placed on the conveyor belt, but marked in a way so other customers know that this dish is ordered by someone. Usually, the plate with the sushi sits on top of a labeled cylindrical stand to indicate that this is a special order. For large orders the sushi may also be brought to the customer by the attendants.

Necessary condiments and tools are usually found near the seats, for example pickled ginger, chopsticks, soy sauce, and small dishes for the soy sauce and the ginger. Wasabi may also be either at the seat, or pots of wasabi are placed on the conveyor belt. Self-served tea and ice water is usually complimentary, with cups stacked on a shelve above the conveyor belt and teabags in a storage container on the table. There is also a hot water faucet at the tables to make tea. On the shelves are also usually wet paper towels and plastic boxes to store sushi for take-out customers.

Billing

The bill is calculated by counting the number and type of plates of the consumed sushi. Plates with different color, pattern, or shape have different prices, usually ranging from 100 yen to 500 yen. The cost of the different plates is shown on signboards or posters in the restaurant. Expensive items may also be placed on two plates at the same time, with the price being the sum of the price tag associated with the individual plates. Some conveyor belt sushi restaurants may also have a fixed price of 100 yen for every plate. Finally, there may also be all you can eat sushi restaurants, where the customer can eat as much as he/she can for a fixed price. A button above the conveyor belt can be used to call the attendants to count the plates. Some restaurants also have a counting machine where the customer drops the plates so that they can be counted automatically.

Targeted customers

Conveyor belt sushi restaurants are frequented by value-minded consumers and those who may not have time for a leisurely meal. They are also popular among foreigners and families with children, as no special Japanese language skills are needed to read a menu or to order. Furthermore, there is no danger of leftover food for small eaters or remaining appetite for big eaters due to the endless supply of small portions available.

History and economics

Conveyor belt sushi was invented by Yoshiaki Shiraishi (1914-2001), who had problems staffing his small sushi restaurant and had difficulties managing the restaurant by himself. He got the idea of a conveyor belt sushi after watching beer bottles on a conveyor belt in an Asahi brewery. After 5 years of development, including the design of the conveyor belt and the speed of operations, Mr. Shirashi opened the first conveyor belt sushi Mawaru Genroku Sushi in Osaka in 1958, quickly creating a chain of 240 restaurants all over Japan (although the number reduced to 11 in 2001).

Initially, all customers were seated to face the conveyor belt, but this was not popular with groups. Subsequently, tables were added at right angles to the conveyor belt, allowing up to 6 people to sit at one table in a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. This also reduced the length of conveyor belt needed to serve a certain number of people.

A conveyor belt sushi boom started in 1970 after a conveyor belt sushi restaurant served sushi on the Osaka World Expo. Another boom started in 1980, when eating out became more popular, and finally in the late 1990s, when inexpensive restaurants became popular after the burst of the economic bubble. Mr. Shirashi also invented a robotic sushi, served by robots, but this idea had no commercial success.

Conveyor belt sushi is a market of 240 billion yen annually in Japan, with almost 3000 restaurants (data from 2001). This popular type of restaurant can also be found in other places in the world. However, some traditionalists criticize conveyor belt sushi restaurants as destroying the ritual of eating sushi as many traditional sushi restaurants are driven out of business under competition.

The ideal speed of the belt is considered to be 8cm per second, slow enough to ensure a safe transport, but fast enough to bring enough volume to the customers. Using a conveyor belt also reduces the number of waiters needed. A fast belt also causes the sushi to dry faster. The belt usually runs clockwise to make it easier to lift the plates off the belt with the left hand while the right hand holds the chopsticks.

A new variant of conveyor belt sushi has a touch screen monitor at every table, showing a virtual aquarium with many fishes. The customer can order the sushi by touching the type of fish, which then is brought to the table by conveyor belt. This style reduced the percentage of excess sushi that was produced but not eaten from normally 7% to 2% of the total.

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