YO! Sushi is changing its iconic conveyor belt as it adapts to the post-Covid safety challenges facing restaurants.
Dishes are famously sent out on the conveyor belt for customers to choose from, but the process is now set to change.
Instead, the ‘kaiten’ belts have been reprogrammed so that dishes are only dispatched once orders have been placed.
Diners will order the dishes they want from their table using mobile phones and pay their bill in advance, minimising interaction with staff.
The technology allows guests to take a picture of a QR code and order and pay for their food through the digital menu on their phone.
Once the dishes have been prepared in the kitchen, they will be sent directly to the guest on the belt. An interactive traffic light system will turn amber to inform customers when their food is on its way and green when the food arrives at their table.
The new format has been tested at YO!’s Guildford branch and will be in operation at every restaurant which reopens this summer.
Chief executive Richard Hodgson said the format had become “tired” and revealed it had spent £4m upgrading sites to date.
The chain is taking a staged approach to reopening that will see it open no more than a dozen sites in the first month since lockdown has been lifted.
— YO! (@YOSushi) July 1, 2020
If the new format proves successful, it will be upgraded to the majority of YO!’s 70-strong restaurant estate over time.
YO! CEO Richard Hodgson said: “We’ve been working hard to make sure we can offer our guests the fun eating out experience YO! is known for while transforming our restaurants into safe, socially distanced environments. We’re excited to open our doors again and provide a really exciting, totally different dining experience.”
Last year it was revealed that YO! Sushi planned to drop conveyor belts from some of its stores altogether.
At its restaurant in the Westfield shopping centre in London, which opened last September, it does not have a belt and customers are served their food by staff.
Mr Hodgson described the change at the time as “probably the biggest thing that’s happened to YO! since it was founded” and said it would enable the chain to highlight that it is no longer only a sushi concept, it said.