Why we should be happy about “restaurants with lines”… Lines are an “economic loss”, but they’re not going away in Japan. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Why we should be happy about “restaurants with lines”… Lines are an “economic loss”, but they’re not going away in Japan.

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Japanese love to wait in line” is well-known to inbound customers

The National Day holiday in China began on September 29. Despite continuing conflicts, such as China’s embargo on Japanese marine products, Japan’s popularity as a travel destination remains strong, and many Chinese are expected to visit Japan. The resurgence of inbound tourism, combined with a chronic labor shortage and other factors, has created a situation in which there are endless lines at popular restaurants and tourist attractions throughout Japan.

For example, a visit to “Restaurants Park,” a dining area occupying the 12th to 14th floors of Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku, Tokyo, which is also popular among inbound tourists, reveals that there are long lines at all restaurants, both Japanese and Chinese, and many people waiting in long lines for chairs in front of restaurants.

A tourist from France (male, 40s) commented, “I wonder why Japanese people stand in line. I think it is a waste of time, so I don’t stand in line. He added, “Many restaurants require reservations. If I cannot make a reservation, I receive a number tag or a transmitter and go shopping elsewhere before returning to the restaurant” (a woman in her 30s from Hong Kong).

Japanese people’s love of waiting in line is also well-known among inbound visitors. In Japan, queuing is a barometer of popularity, as in the case of “restaurants with lines” and “consulting offices with lines.

The presence of a queue raises expectations that the food must be delicious and that there may be some kind of special offer, so people decide to wait in line anyway, which sometimes leads to more lines.

Has the culture of lining up in a well-mannered manner been exported along with the tastes of Japan? Photo: People queuing at Sushiro in Hong Kong on August 25 after the release of “treated water” from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (PHOTO: AFRO)

In fact, Japanese people don’t like waiting in line either.

Queues occur not only at restaurants, but also at supermarkets, theme parks, concert and festival venues, art exhibitions, stadiums, and many other places in Japan. Although it is said that Japanese people like to wait in line, there are probably almost as many Japanese as foreigners who prefer to wait in line, or in other words, waste their time. If asked, many Japanese would reply, “I hate waiting in line. Many Japanese say that they do not stand in line in the first place.

In fact, according to the “Survey on Lines” conducted by Reservation Lab in 2009, 70.1% of respondents answered “No” to the question, “Do you like waiting in line at restaurants?

Trouble” and “economic loss” caused by queuing

Besides being a waste of time, standing in line for a long time, for example, can also pose the risk of heat stroke if it is summer under the scorching sun. Standing in line can also cause fatigue and stress.

Queues often cause problems and complaints. Not only do customers have problems with each other, such as waiting in line in front of or behind each other, and customers have problems with stores, but there are also problems with nearby residents due to noise, garbage, traffic congestion, and so on.

The economic loss caused by queuing is not insignificant. According to the National Tax Agency’s “Survey of Private Sector Salaries in Reiwa 2022,” the average salary of Japanese salaried workers is 4.58 million yen, and according to the OECD’s “Annual Working Hours in 2021,” the average annual actual working hours for all workers in Japan is 1,607 hours, meaning that the opportunity cost for working Japanese people is 2,850 yen per person per hour lost just by waiting in line. The opportunity cost of waiting in line is 2,850 yen per person per hour.

While “digitization” has led to responses to reduce lines…

In this environment, measures are being taken to reduce queues, which entail economic losses, and to increase customer satisfaction.

For example, you have probably used the buzzers at food courts in AEON malls and highway service areas. The buzzer sounds and vibrates to notify you when your order is ready at the cash register. The buzzer allows customers to sit down and wait for their food to be ready without standing in line.

In addition, smartphone ordering and pre-payment have been on the rise recently. Starbucks Coffee has already introduced “Mobile Order & Pay” at all of its directly managed stores nationwide, where customers can order and pay for their food in advance using their smartphones or other devices and receive it without waiting in line at the cash register.

The Rakuten Mobile Park Miyagi of the Rakuten Eagles, Escon Field HOKKAIDO of the Nippon-Ham Fighters, and Noevir Stadium Kobe of the J-League’s Vissel Kobe have gone completely cashless, and the combination of ticketless and mobile ordering, such as QR Ticket, is expected to make it possible to use the system at the entrance and at restaurants. Combined with “QR Tickets” and other ticketless and mobile ordering methods, this system is expected to reduce lines at entrances and restaurants.

In addition, various applications to eliminate queuing, such as EPARK, which allows users to wait in line at popular restaurants and eateries and to make online reservations for available seats, have also been introduced.

A sense of togetherness and accomplishment gained by queuing

Why do Japanese people still queue for restaurants, despite the fact that reservations can now be made easily with smartphone apps and that cashless shopping has become a reality?

One of the reasons is the “syncretic behavior. Synchronized behavior refers to the tendency to act in a similar manner to the behavior of others. In Japan, there are many opportunities for people to line up at morning assemblies and athletic meets, etc., from kindergarten and elementary school, and there is a strong tendency to value harmony, teamwork, discovery, following the right path, group behavior, and belonging to an organization.

Moreover, queuing, which is supposed to be time-consuming and stressful, can create a sense of togetherness and intimacy and camaraderie when everyone around you is doing the same thing. Japanese people, especially the younger generation, may be more conscious of queuing as part of an event, whether it is a concert, festival, food event, Disneyland, or USJ.

The “Mona Lisa Exhibition” was held at the Tokyo National Museum from April 20 to June 10, 1974. The venue was jammed with people who wanted to catch a glimpse of the “Nazo’s Smile. The exhibition recorded a record attendance of approximately 1.51 million people, and remains at the top of the list (PHOTO: AFRO).

Why don’t the “wealthy” stand in line?

On the other hand, the “wealthy” generally do not wait in line. In my capacity as an asset management advisor and financial consultant for the wealthy in Japan and abroad, I have had direct contact with many wealthy people. Based on this experience, I can say that the characteristics of the wealthy are: (1) they do not like to be the same as others, (2) they are lazy, and (3) they dislike time thieves.

Time is sometimes more important to the wealthy than money, as in the case of private jets and helicopters used for long-distance travel.

The wealthy generally value time more than money, do not want to do the same things as other people, and are lazy, so they avoid activities that perfectly match these three factors: waiting in line, going to crowded places, and so on.

Perhaps there is something to be learned from the behavior of these wealthy people. On the other hand, there are many people who believe that queuing to some extent is not a problem, that it is inevitable to some extent, that it is natural to wait in line at popular stores and events, and that there is a sense of unity and accomplishment that comes from waiting in line.

  • Text Katsuhide Takahashi

    Representative Director of Malibu Japan Corporation, Visiting Professor at Graduate School of Project Design, and Financial Analyst, was born in Gifu Prefecture in 1969, graduated from Keio University in 1993 with a Bachelor of Economics, and received a Master of Economics from Aoyama Gakuin University Graduate School of International Political Economy in 2000. After working at Mitsubishi Bank and Citigroup Securities, he established his own company in 2013. He has visited more than 60 countries around the world. He is an expert on domestic and international resort destinations including the Bahamas, Maldives, Palau, Malibu, Los Cabos, Dubai, Hawaii, Niseko, Kyoto, and Okinawa. He is also a noted collector of "Star Wars" movies. His publications include "Bank Zero Era" (Asahi Shimbun Publications), "Why Niseko Only Became a World Resort" (Kodansha + Alpha Shinsho), and "Jibin Nissei" (The Extinction of Regional Banks) (Heibonsha).

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