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Struggling restaurants’ efforts to urge customers to refrain from talking while eating have been attracting public support in Japan amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Such moves come at a time when the spread of COVID-19 infections has put many restaurant owners in a difficult position, thinking “we already take thorough measures” and “have no idea what else to do.”

Backing the restaurants’ attempts, pundits say, “If customers fail to change their attitudes, they could end up destroying their favorite restaurants.”

The campaign for mokushoku, or silent eating, began when a curry restaurant in Fukuoka posted the word on a social networking site.

In the post, the owner cast doubt over criticism of restaurant operations and complained of bad manners of some clients nullifying the effects of antivirus measures taken by restaurants.

A number of social networking users showed sympathy toward the design of a poster promoting quiet eating provided for free by the owner.

Supportive comments included “Having few noisy customer gives relief.” A growing number of stores followed suit.

Kidoairaku, a pub in Tokyo city of Machida, displays a flyer for mokushoku, while also calling for tanshoku, which means eating in a short time.

The pub has been working to ask visitors to sterilize their hands at the entrance and ask them to refrain from talking loudly.

Although it is only a portion of customers that break the rules, the owner, Yu Fujisaki, 45, explained, “We hope customers will understand by themselves without us pointing out their bad manners.”

“To be honest, we don’t want to say such a thing in a pub for enjoying a chat. Still, we hope customers will concentrate on eating during the pandemic,” Fujisaki said, adding that efforts by restaurants alone would not be enough.

Rikiya Yamaji, a food journalist, pointed out, “It is hard to avoid conversation among a large group of customers.”

Behind the spread of the mokushoku campaign is a shift to serving individual customers, said Yamaji, who expects an increase in reservation-only restaurants and those serving only individual customers.

“Restaurants are afraid of customers with little awareness about the virus,” he said. “I hope the government will not only urge restaurants to operate with shorter hours and customers to refrain from going to restaurants, but also warn customers about their attitudes.”

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