Tokyo may be onto something with their new “work for food” policy. On a mission to combat hunger, Mirai Shokudo owner, Ms. Sekai Kobayashi has implemented a new policy and it makes a whole lot of sense. If someone comes into her restaurant and can’t afford a meal, she gives them an option to work for the food instead.
If they choose the work, they will be assigned 50 minutes of restaurant chores including, serving dishes, clearing tables, and other tasks to keep the restaurant running.
As the only employee at the restaurant, Kobayashi welcomes the help in exchange for one of her dishes and so far, people are taking her up on her offer, as 500 guests have opted for the work for food exchange. Several of those guests have been university students who appreciate the opportunity to save money.
There are two ways to cash in on the work. You can either get a hot meal right on the spot after completing your work assignment or you can receive a free meal coupon that can be placed at the restaurant’s entrance are for anyone to use. So essentially, so people are working for the sake of giving others a free meal. Talk about a good way to pay it forward and battle the hunger epidemic.
It all started two years ago when Kobayashi opened the restaurant in the city’s Jinbocho district hoping to have a place where everyone was welcome and fits in.
“Instead, we offer meals in return for 50 minutes of labor at the restaurant,” said Kobayashi. “I use this system because I want to connect with hungry people who otherwise couldn’t eat at restaurants because they don’t have money.”
Believe it or not, she has found her business to be profitable, and it does wonders for the community.
“Through various methods, I’ve also kept the business profitable,” she said of her business, where the daily lunch special is priced at 900 yen ($10.50).
Evidently, Kobayashi’s education paid off.
“I dabbled in shop management as a university student. Each year at the university’s annual festival, I ran a dimly lit cafe stocked with books,” said Ms. Kobayashi of her initial foray into the food and beverage (F&B) trade. The cafe won first prize in the festival popularity contest in all four years when I was a student. I even opened cafes at other school festivals,” she added.
She has a broad background in jobs including her role working in restaurants and pubs in Shinjuku’s Golden Gai district in Tokyo. After she graduated from school, a bar master who she worked with her gave her the advice of experiencing the outside world. After working for IBM Japan as an engineer, she started working for a cooking recipe website called, Cookpad.
“My colleagues really liked the lunches I made for them,” said Kobayashi, regarding the company’s in-office kitchen. “This led me to strongly consider opening my own restaurant.”
She admitted that her background has helped her get to where she is today, including her experience as an engineer.
“To manage my restaurant, I adopted an open-source model – a system through which software design is made available for free to the public so that everyone can improve upon it. I posted the restaurant’s business plan and finances on its website so I can collect input from the public on how to make improvements. This information is also available for those who want to open their own restaurants. Sharing something with others means supporting those with ambition. That underpins my approach to work,” she said.