Japanese Food on a Conveyor Belt

Sushi conveyor belt

Credit: Todd Lappin/

Food on a conveyor belt? You heard it right! This is the Japanese innovation to fast food service, and it is a method that allows people to stay seated throughout a meal, choosing dishes as they go without having to order each additional plate.

Restaurants that opt for conveyor belt sushi are usually advertised as kaiten-sushi (rotation sishi) or kuru kuru sushi  (sushi-go-round) in Japan. In Australia, these restaurants are sometimes called sushi trains, and in the United States, these are referred to as rotating sushi bars.

How the Conveyor Belt Meal Works

Ways of Wanderers writer Jessica Dawdy shares her experience on this innovative approach to quick service, handmade Japanese food in How to Eat Conveyor Belt Sushi.

“In traditional conveyor belt sushi restaurants, the chefs prepare sushi in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by the conveyor belt. The customers sit at bar stools or tables positioned along the length of the conveyor belt. These types of restaurants are usually small and intimate because all of the diners are within arms’ reach of the sushi chefs.

“As the sushi passes by you on the conveyor belt, you can just grab any plates that look appealing; or you can use the menu on your table to place a specific order.

“There is sometimes an English menu available, and if not, the menu almost always has pictures. If you see something you want on the menu, you can call to one of the sushi chefs by saying “sumimasen”, which means “excuse me” (this is a really helpful phrase to ask for service in any type of restaurant). If the menu is in Japanese, we usually just point to the picture of whatever we want, and say “kore o-ne-gai-shi-mas”, which means “this, please”.

“The sushi chefs prepare custom orders on the spot, and then pass them directly to you.

This said, it’s not necessary to make any custom orders. It’s perfectly ok to just take plates off the conveyor belt for your entire meal…”

The Advantages of Conveyor Belt Dining

The conveyor belt approach certainly holds numerous advantages for diners who love Japanese food. It is rather like eating at a limitless buffet table where the food comes to you in single-serving portions. Judging by the activity of the chefs at the center of the restaurant, the food on the conveyor belts is fresh and constantly replenished.

Because the portions are modestly sized, you are able to determine the exact amount of food you want to consume for that specific meal. Plus, generally, kaiten-sushi restaurants charge relatively less than conventional Japanese restaurants. Best of all, unless you are placing a custom order, there is no need to call a waiter and wait for the food to be prepared.

What About Drinks?

The sushi conveyor belt normally has a selection of Tetra Pak drinks in it. The restaurant normally has a tea, coffee, and water station, but beer and sake are often considered special orders. For sake or cold beer to accompany your sushi, you would have to order some. If your table has a menu with a picture of beer or sake on it, simply show the picture to one of the waiters standing around the room and say, “kore o-ne-gai-shi-mas!”

Paying Up

So, how do you pay for your meal? Amy Reiszl gives a simple explanation in her article Kaiten-Zushi: Conveyor Belt Sushi Restaurants: At the end of your meal, the waitress will count up how many plates you have of each color then add them up to get your total…” Trust the Japanese to always take the minimalist approach!

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