Japanese pub turns to robots amid COVID-19

At one barbecue restaurant in Tokyo, plates of food are now served on a conveyer belt, while robots operate as waiters.

Watami used to be a chain of izakayas, Japanese-style pubs serving small dishes and alcohol.

But after Japan instated new COVID-19 restrictions banning alcohol and cutting back opening hours, the restaurant saw sales plunge by more than 80%.

Owner Miki Watanabe turned to other solutions to cut labor costs - and stay afloat.

"Due to this coronavirus, the izakaya market shrank much more than I had expected. When you think about what could replace this izakaya market, from what I have been observing during the coronavirus (pandemic), yakiniku and sushi (restaurants) have been able to secure customers."

But not all restaurants have complied with the government's rules, which are not legally binding.

Watanabe says the country's next prime minister, which will be determined in little under a week, should do more to help eateries.

"If we will be under a state of emergency, the government should make policies that are best suitable for the situation. Maybe we will be asked to close by seven, or by nine. In accordance to those policies, they should also provide a fair compensation for business suspension."

Watanabe now plans to convert 40% of Watami's 300 outlets into high-tech barbecue restaurants by next April.

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