The Environment Ministry is gearing up to provide subsidies to help restaurants introduce high-performance ventilation systems to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection.
Eligible for the aid will be ventilation systems that allow heat exchange between outgoing air and incoming fresh air to keep the temperature inside the facilities unchanged. Such systems are energy-efficient and play a role in curbing global warming as they can prevent wasteful heating or cooling.
The ministry has set aside funds for the measure in the draft supplementary budget for fiscal 2020.
It is believed that the risk of coronavirus transmission is high in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation. This is seen as one reason why an increasing number of people are shunning restaurants during the ongoing crisis. Restaurant operators are also being hit hard by stay-at-home requests by authorities.
The subsidies will cover half to two-thirds of the cost to install the advanced ventilation systems, which run about ¥500,000 each. The ministry expects the aid to cover around 3,000 ventilation systems at 800 to 1,000 locations across the nation.
After the viral crisis is contained, the ministry will study how restaurant users react to the introduction of the ventilation systems, employing know-how from behavioral science. For instance, the ministry is considering examining whether restaurants that display a notice that they have a high-performance ventilation system will attract more customers than those without such a system.
If it is proved that such restaurants are preferred more by visitors, the ministry will make this known to the public so that more operators will be inclined to introduce advanced ventilation systems even without the subsidies.
Restaurants have meanwhile been beefing up takeout and delivery services in a bid to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and some other prefectures have asked eating and drinking establishments not to operate after 8 p.m. Takeout and meal deliveries are not covered by the requests and can be offered even late at night.
At the curry restaurant chain operated by Ichibanya Co., recent data found that sales from takeout and delivery are running at about 10 percent higher year on year while same-store sales have been weaker.
The beef-on-rice restaurant chain operator Sukiya Co. is using its website to publicize ways to make new dishes out of its products.
“We want people to know new ways to enjoy our dishes,” a public relations official said.
Skylark Holdings Co. has dispatched staff personnel to about 1,000 group outlets, including those in the Gusto chain, to help handle more takeout and delivery orders.
This difficult period is expected to continue for restaurants, however.
“We cannot beat prepared food from supermarkets in terms of price,” said an official of a Chinese restaurant.