10.31.2005

Instant gratification

So there's this little restaurant near my office called Sushi Station. The genre of this place is best described as "conveyor-belt sushi." Let me explain.

You sit around a large counter on barstools, not unlike the counter at an American diner. Right in front of your face is a conveyor belt, upon which little plates of sushi ride. They are covered by a large clear tube which has slide-up doors. You sit and watch the sushi go by. Every so often, a sign rides by saying "Spicy Tuna" or "Edamame." If you see something that looks good, you just open the door and grab it! Then you eat it! Just like that - instant gratification.

The way you stay honest is that the plates are color-coded. It's something like $2 for green, $3 for pink, $4 for blue and $6 for yellow. When you've had enough, your waitress comes by, tallies up your plates and brings you the bill. Clever.

What I think is fascinating about conveyor-belt sushi is that they have literally brought the menu to life, right in front of you. First we saw diner menus with little drawings of their food. Then the Denny's menu brought this concept to the masses with its not-fooling-anybody photos of eggs and bacon. Some restaurants have dessert trays, or even platters showing their raw cuts of meat (yikes).

But this is the ultimate in real-time decision-making. It's almost childlike in the way it caters to your visual sense - you see something and say "I want that." Seconds later, you have it.

Now I know that Americans are considered lazy, and that we are constantly coming up with "inventions" that bring "convenience" to our lives, so we don't even have to get up to change the channel. And I have to say that I'm not a fan of this trend - can't people just get off the couch and do something for themselves?

But that said, the idea of conveyor-belt shopping still sounds pretty freaking cool. Just imagine - you sit in a chair and things fly slowly by your eyes. You consider each thing for just a second. Suddenly, "That one!" And you've made your choice.

It would be fun for impulse buys, or purchases where you can't make up your mind. It would help in situations where the process takes a long time. It's like picking the bad guy out of a lineup. You see it once, and in a split second, you know. That's the one I want. And bam - instant gratification.

Maybe one day we'll all be sitting in La-Z-Boys at Target, watching toasters fly by.

3 comments:

Elliott said...

Kinda makes me wish I liked Sushi.

Steve Portigal said...

Thank you for bringing up the Denny's menu. I cite that all the time because I think I have cognitive trouble in making the leap from the verbiage in the menu to actually picturing what I'm going to eat. Obviously, it doesn't tell you about taste, but the Denny's menu (which I believe they don't do the same way any more) with it's overhead images of the plate was so great - you got so much info.

It's a bit of an adventure in a fancier-type restaurant to order something and not know if you are getting it all mixed up in a sauce, or as separate meat-and-potatoes type items, or what.

The simplicity of presentation in the menu can be a pleasant relief - although, the sense of adventure may be lost. I don't know that Denny's dining is really about adventure.

I think the sushi boat experience (isn't that more how it's known) is definitely adventure-like, though, because you can get fairly engaged in watching what is coming around next and trying to get the one you want, etc.

I was also reminded of how restaurants in Japan have plastic replicas of their dishes in a window outside the place. There's even a part of Tokyo that has many stores that sell the individual pieces you could use to make up a variety of fake plastic meals. Pretty helpful for tourists who can't read what's written, but can point :)

george said...

I think that this type of dining is called 'Kaiten-zushi'. I used to eat a bunch in London.
go here for more on sushi types!
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2036.html