10 “Food Diversity” Measures for Restaurants that can attract inbound customers and promote the SDGs

From October 11, 2022, deregulation began, including the lifting of the cap on the number of inbound travelers and the lifting of the ban on individual travel, which is being implemented to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Inbound measures are important not only to increase sales, but also to achieve SDGs such as “food diversity” and “eco-tourism,” which are deeply related to the achievement of SDGs for restaurants.

According to a November 2022 survey of restaurants and drinking establishments nationwide regarding inbound tourism, nearly 60% (57.7%) of all respondents answered that “the number of foreign tourists has already increased”; nearly 80% (77.5%) answered that they “expect the number of foreign tourists to increase,” while more than 70% (70.4%) of restaurants and drinking establishments More than 70% (70.4%) of the respondents answered that they “feel problems in attracting foreign tourists. It is clear that more than half of them have not taken any countermeasures.

In this column, we would like to introduce specific measures and case studies of inbound countermeasures for restaurants, including explanations from the aspect of “promotion of sustainability in restaurants” as well as attracting customers.

What is the relevance of inbound to the SDGs?

In fact, there is much overlap between inbound measures and measures to promote sustainability, including the SDGs. In particular, ” food diversity,” which is also called “food barrier-free” and refers to the diversity of distinctive dietary habits and cuisines based on food cultures and religions that exist around the world, is closely related to SDG Goal 10, “Eliminate inequality among people and nations. In achieving this goal, vegan and vegetarian options will help people of different cultures, religions, and constitutions to enjoy food with peace of mind. Vegan options also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, which is an issue addressed in Goal 13, “Tackle climate change in a concrete way.

In addition, learning foreign languages to improve services is closely related to Goal 8, “Both job satisfaction and economic growth,” and demand for sustainable travel such as eco-tourism is closely related to Goal 11, “Create a town where people can continue to live. In addition, the food loss problem caused by a lack of communication with foreign guests is linked to SDG Goal 12, “Responsibility to Create, Responsibility to Use.

01. Understanding Diversity

There are many different countries and cultures in the world, and in order to smoothly receive and entertain foreign guests, it is necessary to understand the culture and values of each country. In particular, when it comes to food, everything is relevant, including beliefs, preferences, physical constitution, and lifestyle. What is natural to many Japanese people may be considered insane to foreigners. It is effective to include basic knowledge of various food cultures in staff training, such as “Hindus do not eat beef and Muslims do not eat pork for religious reasons,” “There are many vegans and vegetarians in Europe and America,” and “Eating raw food is not customary in Taiwan. Each staff member’s understanding of and consideration for food diversity will lead to better service throughout the restaurant.

[Related Articles] What is Food Diversity?

02. Communicate confirmations and rules in advance.

Informing them in advance of the restaurant’s systems and rules that may need to be explained later will help avoid problems. For example, when you want to ask each person to order more than one item, ask them to confirm it before taking their seats, rather than exchanging information after they enter the restaurant and take their seats. Also, when doing so, it is important to communicate through text, photos, and physical items, rather than through conversation.

At “Teppan jinjya”, a teppan-yaki restaurant in Dotonbori, Osaka, which averages 3,000 foreign guests a month, the restaurant clearly states its requests and rules in the language of the country in an easy-to-understand manner on the menu, etc., as verbal communication may not be remembered by the guests. Although there are about 20% of guests who do not agree with the rules and leave after looking at the menu, the number of problems has decreased and sales have rather increased.

03. Taking orders with multilingual menus and order sheets

The aforementioned “Teppan jinjya” also has menus in Korean, Chinese, and English in the restaurant. To improve order fulfillment, the restaurant also utilizes order sheets written in the three languages in conjunction with the menu. Guests write down the quantity of food they want to order while looking at the menu on the order sheet and hand it to the staff. The new system of having guests fill out the order form directly has reduced ordering errors and food loss, and even staff who do not understand foreign languages can efficiently take orders, leading to an improved work environment.

In addition, Takayama City in Gifu Prefecture, which has been designated as an international tourism model district by the Japanese government, provides subsidies to local businesses to make their tools multilingual as part of their preparations for welcoming foreign tourists. Other municipalities also offer such support programs, so why not check them out?

04. Prepare a communication board that you can point to.

Recently, an increasing number of stores are providing “communication support boards” for people who need communication assistance, such as foreigners who do not speak Japanese or people with hearing or speech impairments. Customers can confirm their intentions by pointing to illustrations or letters on the board. The data for such boards is available free of charge on the websites of various local governments, so they can be used immediately.

Another method of communication when language is not understood is to use gestures, but it is important to note that even gestures used as good expressions in Japan may be interpreted differently in foreign cultures. For example, the gesture of giving a thumbs-up, meaning “I like” or “I understand,” has insulting connotations in some regions, such as the Middle East. The gesture of beckoning “come” has the opposite meaning of “don’t come” or “go away” in the U.S., China, and other countries. By using tools such as communication support boards, the risk of such misunderstandings can be avoided.

05. Vegan menus and other food restrictions are available.

In recent years, the vegan population has continued to grow globally; according to 2019 Tourism Agency data, the number of vegetarians, including vegans, in 100 major countries and territories is increasing by nearly 1% annually. There are a variety of reasons for choosing vegan/vegetarianism, including health reasons, environmental concerns, as well as religious, animal welfare, and concerns about the food crisis.

While the market is expected to expand in Japan, eating out is a concern for vegetarians because there are still few restaurants in Japan that cater to vegetarians. According to a Japan Tourism Agency survey of vegetarians and other visitors to Japan, 55% of respondents have given up on a dish they wanted to eat because there was no vegetarian option, and 45% said they would not go to a restaurant unless it was vegetarian-friendly.

Heianraku, a restaurant in Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture, which has been ranked among the top Japanese restaurants popular among foreigners every year by TripAdvisor, says that it does not mix ingredients that conflict with religious restrictions and serves them with the food, leaving it up to the guests themselves to decide. While it may take time and effort to create a vegan or religiously-oriented menu from scratch, these considerations can be put into practice right away.

[Related Article] 5 Points Restaurants Should Know About Making Vegan Menu Items

06. Indicate allergenic ingredients

A food allergy is an abnormality that occurs in the skin, digestive system, or respiratory system after ingesting a particular food. First of all, it is important for restaurants to know exactly what ingredients are used in their own menu items. The most common method of indicating allergenic foods is to list the presence or absence of allergenic ingredients on the menu, but in recent years, an increasing number of restaurants are also publishing allergy charts on their websites.

The aforementioned “Heianraku” always has on hand such items as wheat-free soy sauce and alcohol-free miso for those with allergies. When people with allergies come to the restaurant, they are asked to bring the packages of these seasonings to their seats and check them with their eyes.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ “Guidebook for Inbound Food Service Businesses” includes a “Allergy/Unauthorized Foods Check Sheet” that lists ingredients that are likely to be the source of allergies and major ingredients related to religious precepts. Like the aforementioned “Communication Support Board,” it can be used for communication not only with foreigners but also with people with hearing or speech impairments, as it can be checked by pointing.

07.Set up a Wi-Fi environment

Since many foreign tourists use the Internet as a source of travel information, restaurants with a free Wi-Fi environment are likely to be chosen as places to eat. In addition, many people use SNS, and having them take pictures of the food and restaurant on the spot and post them on SNS will also help attract customers.
It is also effective to make an easy-to-understand appeal for free Wi-Fi by posting a notice to that effect in stores when introducing free Wi-Fi. The Japan Tourism Agency has created the “Japan.Free Wi-Fi” mark to indicate the availability of free Wi-Fi in order to promote the development of free Wi-Fi for foreign visitors to Japan. By registering Wi-Fi spot information and applying for use of the symbol on the application website, the mark can be used and simultaneously registered on the English-language free Wi-Fi spot search website operated by the Japan Tourism Agency.

08. Diversify payment methods

In many countries, the mainstream of payment is by card. Since there are differences in the trend of cards used in different countries and regions, it is desirable to be able to accept multiple types of cards. In recent years, systems that allow card payments to be made via smartphones and tablet terminals have been introduced.

Other things that tend to lead to complaints during the accounting process are “consumption tax” and “market value”. In particular, the fact that seasonal seafood is “market value” is an unfamiliar concept to foreign guests. It is a good idea to inform them before ordering that consumption tax will be charged and that some ingredients have market value.

09. Support for customer service in foreign languages

One way to ensure smooth communication with foreign visitors to Japan is to learn foreign languages or hire staff fluent in foreign languages. As part of their welfare services, some companies invite instructors to hold English language training sessions after business hours or conditionally cover the cost of attending an outside English conversation school. For stores, supporting employees’ foreign language learning will lead to service improvement, and for employees, it will provide an opportunity to improve their skills, which may support the creation of a rewarding and sustainable workplace as targeted by SDG Goal 8, “Both job satisfaction and economic growth.

10. Hiring foreign employees

In addition to English, which is the lingua franca, it is desirable to be able to speak Chinese, Korean, and other languages that are spoken by large numbers of visitors to Japan, but it is very difficult for Japanese employees to acquire such multiple language skills.

The most effective inbound measure taken by Yaki-Teppan Shrine in Dotonbori, Osaka, as mentioned earlier, has been the hiring of foreign staff. Currently, the restaurant employs Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese staff to serve customers. The staff is able to adapt to the food culture and customs of each country, which are unfamiliar to Japanese, and provide attentive customer service, leading to a sense of security among the foreign guests. In addition, the fact that foreign staff members of different nationalities, races, and religions can work to the best of their abilities is linked to the realization of SDG Goal 10, “Eliminate inequality among people and countries.

Editor’s Note

How was it? Inbound consumption is gaining expectations with the start of deregulation to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. In addition, an awareness survey conducted in 2020 revealed that an increasing number of people “felt that their lives are connected to society” as a result of the coronavirus, indicating that consumers’ awareness of sustainability is growing.

The SDGs’ goal of “creating a global society in which no one is left behind” may seem like a distant goal with high hurdles to overcome. However, if we recognize that each and every measure we take to entertain our foreign guests in front of us is connected to the realization of the SDGs, it will seem a little closer to home. By starting with what you can do, you will be one step closer to creating a sustainable restaurant.

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[Reference Site] One month after the easing of inbound travel restrictions, more than half of restaurants say that the number of customers is increasing, while nearly 60% of all respondents are concerned that the labor shortage will become more serious.
[Reference Site] Japan Tourism Agency: Vegetarian and Vegan Guide for Restaurant Businesses, etc.
[Reference Site] Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan: Guidebook for Inbound Businesses in the Food and Beverage Industry.
[Reference site] Yamaguchi City: Download the Communication Support Board
[Reference Site] Japan Tourism Agency: Search and other functions of the “Japan.Free Wi-Fi” website have been enhanced.
[Reference Site] Dentsu: Toward a More Sustainable World. Five shifts in consumer awareness brought about by the Corona disaster

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