Many university cafeterias that used to focus on volume have turned into popular restaurants, attracting people other than students or academic staff working or studying there.
One such restaurant is Cafe & Dining Odai Jikido that opened this spring at Taisho University in Toshima Ward, Tokyo.
Located on the eighth floor, complete with a view of Tokyo Skytree, the cafeteria offers a Western-style lunch for around ¥1,000 and more expensive dinner fare and wine in the evening.
About 60 percent of its customers are nonstudents enticed by meals prepared by a top-class chef from major hotel chain Prince Hotels Inc.
A buffet meal for families is particularly popular during weekends, according to a university official.
“By allowing people outside the campus to use our cafeteria, we hope it will serve as a symbol of our exchanges with local residents and neighboring stores,” the official said, noting the surrounding area of Sugamo is visited by many elderly people.
Prince Hotels for its part also finds it beneficial to manage a university cafeteria.
“Since the restaurant can attract customers with its unique location and other characteristics, we are interested in the idea of developing it into a new business,” said an official of Prince Hotels headquartered in Tokyo. It is the first time the hotel chain has run a cafeteria at a university.
Kagawa Nutrition University, which trains dieticians and other professionals in the area of diet and health, has made its cafeteria a place where its students can learn about nutritional management while having lunch.
The Komagome Cafeteria on its campus, also in Toshima Ward, where about 800 students are enrolled, offers a selection of nutritious meals for around ¥500.
It displays a list of the nutrients and calories for all the ingredients used for the lunches so students can select a balanced meal.
Karen Hasegawa, 18, a freshman who lives away from her family, said, “I sometimes bring my lunch to the cafeteria and order dishes to compensate for the loss of nutrients that I think I may not be able to take only from my lunch.”
Miwako Tanaka, one of the dieticians in charge of the cafeteria, said, “What we aim for here is to help our students make it a habit to think of their health through meals.”
When students finish school, they are given a notebook containing all the recipes of the dishes the cafeteria provided.
The cafeteria became so popular among people from off-campus, however, that the university had to close it to the public in May 2012.
The university has also released a book of recipes for the meals at the cafeteria and healthy “bento” boxed meals it has developed jointly with major supermarket chain Aeon Co.