Japanese government preparing to launch “Go To Eat” campaign

Published on
August 6, 2020

From 21 July and running until 8 August, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) has been recruiting organizations and restaurants to participate in the "Go To Eat" campaign. The campaign aims to stimulate demand in the food and beverage industry for a limited time by subsidizing part of the cost of dining out.

Restaurants have been hit hard as customers have refrained from eating out as a way of limiting the spread of COVID-19. After dropping to as low as 10 percent of the previous year’s revenue, many eating establishments have been able to rebound to about 50 percent. However, spacing tables more widely to meet social distancing guidelines has put limits on capacity.

Restaurants in downtown areas that relied on office workers for lunchtime business and after-work dinners have remained at the 10 percent level, as more companies institute working from home, and the number of workers in the city center declines. This week, with the recent resurgence in the number of cases, some companies that were allowing one or two days per week of work-at home are increasing the number of days, or going to full remote work.

The actual Go To Eat program will begin in late August. Meal coupons for 25 percent off food and drinks will be issued. The coupons can be used at registered restaurants in the areas where they are issued, so long as they in the same prefecture.

The “Go To Eat” campaign is in the same vein as the “Go To” program for subsidizing domestic travel. That campaign was criticized when rising infection cases in Tokyo made it obvious that sending Tokyoites traveling to uninfected areas was a dangerous move. The “Go To” campaign had to exclude Tokyo, but since many Tokyo residents had already made bookings, the government ended up agreeing to pay the cancellation fees.

To avoid criticism that this program would also spread the virus, the government first delayed it for a week, but finally went ahead while asking restaurants to take a number of safety precautions. Among the recommendations: Diners should wash their hands and wear a mask when placing an order, and shouldn’t talk and drink in close proximity to each other; And shops should use an acrylic barrier to separate guests from each other, or they should arrange for them to sit at a distance from each other.

Photo courtesy of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries 

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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