A restaurant in the district Jinbocho of Tokyo offers a meal if you work there for 50 minutes. This restaurant is called Mirai Shokudo. It is owned by a former engineer Sekai Kobayashi who wanted to create a place for people who are not able to afford their meals. The restaurant does not have any permanent staff. Customers can either pay for their meals or can work one or two daily shifts to earn their meal.
The lunch shift consists of tasks that include serving the orders, clearing tables, and other similar tasks. The evening shift starts after the closing of the restaurant. It mainly consists of cleaning. The shift can be exchanged for either a free meal or can be ‘paid forward’ in the form of a voucher. The customers who visit the restaurant first time must eat at the restaurant to make them familiar with the settings. Up till now, almost 500 people have worked for their meals.
The restaurant was opened two years ago. It aims to create a space where everyone is allowed and fits in too. The owner opened some pop-up cafes during her student period but later on went into engineering and graduated from Tokyo Institute of Technology’s faculty of science. She worked for IBM Japan Ltd and then moved to Cookpad Inc, which runs a recipe site. The company had a kitchen office where employees were able to cook, eat and share meals.
Kobayashi told China Daily, “My colleagues really liked the lunches I made for them. This led me to strongly consider opening my own restaurant. Afterward, I received vocational training at a leading restaurant chain and other places before opening Mirai Shokudo.”
Telling China Daily about her change of career, which is a daunting notion for many, she said, “Those looking for jobs might feel that making the wrong choice could ruin the rest of their lives. But it’s okay to change course later on. That’ll eventually lead you in a direction that you feel strongly about. That’s what happened to me with Mirai Shokudo.” She continued, “Working as an engineer actually was not a waste of time. 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.”
Kobayashi posts about the business plan and finances of the restaurant on her website for everyone to see it. She takes feedback and input from the public to improve the business. The information is also available to help anyone who wants to open a business of their own. A man who is 56-years old and also a former teacher has worked in the restaurant since July 2017. He intends to begin a second career in the food industry. Kobayashi said, “It’s an exciting job because I work with a new person every time. It’s interesting to develop a good rapport and work with others.”