/

Seven-Eleven aborts plan to serve draft beer after viral reaction overwhelms

by Cory Baird

Staff Writer

Convenience store chains in Japan are well known for stocking everything from boxed lunches to dress shirts, often living up to their name by offering myriad services ranging from dry-cleaning and bill payment to parcel pickup.

In a sign product offerings may still have room to grow, Seven-Eleven Japan Co. appeared ready to up the ante after news went viral that it planned to sell draft beer at some stores in Tokyo and its suburbs starting Tuesday.

The chain had not widely announced the service in advance because it was planned to be a pilot project, but social media picked up on it just as beer taps were being installed for the test.

Even before the first drop was poured, the plan had to be put on hold “due to projected demand exceeding prior expectation for the product,” said Katsuhiko Shimizu, a spokesman for Seven & I Holdings Co., the chain’s parent.

“There was a possibility that the shops selling the beer would experience overwhelming demand from customers,” Shimizu said. Allowing the sale of draft beer would have “made it extremely difficult for the staff to respond.”

The spokesman said the taps would stay dry until further notice.

Online reactions across Japan were varied, ranging from excitement to shock, with many customers appearing to support the idea that some products are better left alone.

One person writing under the Twitter handle @turumekou said the beer offering “would make no one happy,” listing concerns that it could disturb the neighborhoods hosting the stores, put undue burden on staff to respond to intoxicated customers, and encourage drunken driving.

A number of people also raised concerns that offering draft beer for rock-bottom prices would damage sales at bars. The beer was expected to be priced at ¥100 for a small and ¥190 for a large, and Seven-Eleven would have allowed customers to purchase cups at the register and do their own pours.

“I want them to quit sales of the izakaya-killing ¥100 beers,” wrote Twitter user @Wilhelmina_2018, referring to the nation’s ubiquitous traditional pubs.