Unique Business in Japan: Restaurant Run by People with Dementia

All the servers are people with dementia

In Tokyo last year opened a restaurant. The name is “Restaurant of Mistaken Orders.” What features the restaurant is all the servers working there are people living with dementia. According to their website, the servers may or may not get your order right. When I heard the news, I was so impressed. It’s not because I’m a good guy full of humanity but because it proves my marketing theory: People choose something not for its value but for its meaning.

Differentiation doesn’t work any more

Many marketers say differentiation is the key to success in business, but how? Now that the world is filled up with a lot of things, information, and services, it’s almost impossible to clearly differentiate something from others. Most people can’t tell such a small difference in quality and design. In the first place, as the Jam theory proves, people become overloaded with too many choices. I’m sure the quality and price of your service are excellent, but they’re not enough to differentiate you from others, because your competitors surviving in this difficult time would be as good as you.

A scene of furniture making. Our craftsman is planing a wood piece.
Japanese furniture in the making.

What matters is meaning rather than quality

Let me give you another example. A picture book was sold at two prices. The one at the higher price includes a donation for kids in need. Without saying, it sold much more than the cheaper one. Differentiation is no longer a determinant factor because it’s not value but meaning that people want when buying something.

Why do your customers choose your service? I think it’s mainly because of your personality, as it may sound like going against the times (diluting relations between people). Your customers want to pay not to goods or services but to you. I didn’t mean to appeal myself here but just hope you like the character or personality of our company: artisan-spirited, faithful, and eco-friendly.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.

Source: https://forbesjapan.com/articles/detail/16640, https://careergarden.jp/kagushokunin/