A Japanese sushi chain is getting rid of its conveyor belts

Spinning sushi.
Spinning sushi.
Image: AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara
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Sushi delivered by conveyor belt is arguably the height of analog-era restaurant gadgetry. But at least at one Japanese chain, it has become the latest casualty of the mobile computing revolution.

Introduced in the late 1950s, “kaiten-zushi” restaurants feature a revolving belt with small plates of sushi. Diners can grab whatever passes them and looks appetizing; the bill is tallied by the number of stacked, empty plates (often color-coded to represent different prices). The concept spread as far as a Whole Foods in Manhattan.

Now Japan’s chain Genki Sushi, with 130 branches, is moving away from the system, according to Japan Today. Instead, it will focus on direct, custom orders:

Many establishments now have tableside tablets that customers can use to order with just a few taps of their finger. The sushi is prepared in the kitchen and placed on a plate, and the plate is then in turn placed on a rail that quickly slides the order to the customer.

These tablet orders already represent 80% of sushi eaten in Genki branches that have the systems, Japan Today reports. So it is planning to turn all of its locations into non-revolving systems within five years. This results in fresher food for diners, less food waste (if conveyer-belt plates go uneaten or are out too long) and lower electricity consumption, which has been a concern in Japan following the 2011 earthquake.