National / Social Issues

More restaurant chains go smoke-free ahead of 2020 Games, but izakaya reluctant to alienate customers who drink and smoke

JIJI

More and more major restaurant chains are making their outlets completely smoke-free ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The central and Tokyo Metropolitan governments are slated to tighten measures against passive smoking to prepare for the 2020 Games, which are expected to attract many foreign visitors.

As well as considering the planned tighter regulations, restaurant operators are hoping to attract nonsmoking customers to their outlets, industry sources said.

The operators also hope to secure human resources amid a labor shortage by reducing the risks of exposure to secondhand smoke at the workplace, the sources said.

Family restaurant operator Saizeriya Co. plans to eliminate smoking tables from all of its roughly 1,000 outlets across the country by around September 2019. Most Saizeriya restaurants currently have both smoking and nonsmoking tables.

“We’ll follow the social trend of banning indoor smoking,” a Saizeriya official said. The smoke-free outlets are also aimed at protecting the health of its staff, including high school students who work part-time, the official added.

Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan Ltd. has already made all seats smoke-free at 96 percent of its roughly 1,150 outlets. The chain is currently planning to raise the figure to 100 percent by the end of March.

“We want customers to eat our products in a comfortable environment,” a public relations official at the company said.

Several years ahead of others in the industry, McDonald’s Company (Japan) Ltd. made all of its outlets across the country smoke-free in August 2014.

“Many customers who visit our outlets with their family members welcome this move, saying that our restaurants have become more inviting to them,” said a representative of the hamburger chain.

Some izakaya (pub) operators have introduced nonsmoking outlets on a trial basis. Ap Company Co. made six outlets in the Tokyo area smoke-free, and Watami Co. introduced a full smoking ban at two outlets in Kanagawa Prefecture.

But most izakaya operators say they are facing difficulties rolling out a complete ban on smoking.

Many smokers cannot help but smoke when drinking, the industry sources said.