While the coronavirus outbreak has caused entertainment event cancellations and theme park closures in Japan, many restaurants remained open, with the majority continuing to offer eat-in service even as they expand their list of takeout options. That said, the Japanese public has been, overall, very conscientious in heeding expert advice discouraging large social gatherings, which has put a damper on business at izakaya (Japanese pubs).
That’s because izakaya get the bulk of their business from customers coming in with a crew of friends or coworkers, often having a semi-private room to themselves as they relax, drink, and eat together for a couple hours. In a country where most homes are too small for entertaining guests, heading to an izakaya is as much about the company as it is the food and drinks, so who wants to go to one by yourself?
But izakaya chain Amataro thinks it’s found a way to make sitting by yourself in an izakaya alone fun. This week the company has begun designating certain one-person dining spaces as “Remote Drinking Party Seats” and is offering them specifically to customers who want to participate in online drinking parties while dining at Amataro.
Each Remote Drinking Party Seat is equipped with a tablet, allowing you to chat with your drinking buddies in real-time. The network is a proprietary one that only connects with other Amataro Remote Drinking Party Seats, but apparently you and the other people in your party can even be in different branches of the chain.
Granted, you could stage an online drinking party from the comfort of your own home with any video chat app, but then you’ve also got to do your own cooking and cleaning (as well as putting the party on hold while you run out to buy more drinks, if things go longer than you expected). Amataro’s plan eliminates all those hassles/risks by essentially giving you the regular izakaya experience while still allowing you to maintain social distance from other individuals.
Currently the Remote Drinking Party Seats are only available at Amataro’s Tokyo Akihabara and Osaka Soemoncho branches, but if they prove popular, we might seem them popping up at other locations, or other chains, as the summer goes on.