Guide to ordering food using a Ticket Machine in Japan
Have you ever been into a restaurant, sat down, then no one’s come over to take your order? Then as you (im)patiently wait trying to catch the waiters eye, you see another customer hand a little ticket over to the waiter before sitting down, and then they receive their food before you’ve even got the confidence to ask sumimasen. What is all that about?!?!
Well never fear dear traveller, we’ve all been there, so let lil’ ole Wedy guide you through what you need to do.
There are many restaurants I could have used for this article, but I’m going to use “Nakau” as the example in this case. Nakau is a chain of restaurants across Japan (mainly in Tokyo and Osaka) which pride themselves on cheap but delicious food. They specialise in udon noodles, served in a Kyoto style clear broth. As well as donburi (rice bowls with a hearty topping) or beef curry.
Now there are lots of restaurants which use ticket machines as a way to take your order as it’s an efficient way to place an order quickly in a busy restaurant environment. This is an easy and common practice in Japan (once you know that’s what you’re supposed to do).
The first thing you may notice here is how the menu is in English; many of these ticket machines have an English language function that you can choose at the top right hand side of the screen. Some machines don’t have an English option but have pictures to help you decide, and in some cases, particularly in Izakayas (old style bars) there maybe no English option and no pictures to help you decide (good luck with that one). In most cases if you do feel stuck then you can ask any member of staff what to do and they’ll help the best they can, just don’t expect the staff to be able to speak perfect English.
I’d also recommend the Google Translate app which allows you to take a photo of any Japanese and it will translate it for you, just be mindful of other people who may want to use the machine, as using Google Translate is time consuming.
Once you’ve made your decision just press the screen and then your selection will be placed into the “Order List” on the right hand side of the screen. Then just put your Yen into the machine (either notes or coins in this occasion), there’s no need to press a “checkout” button, the machine will process your order automatically once the money has been inserted. Now we wait, 3… 2… 1…. BINGO!
This machine will start making a lot of noise! Don’t worry that’s just the machine letting you know that your tickets and change are ready (as if you could forget). The tickets will be deposited from the bottom left of the machine and your change usually will be on the right.
Take a seat
That’s the difficult part done, so take a deep breathe and find a seat. Usually a waiter will come running over with some water and to collect your tickets. They’ll normally read back what you’ve ordered just to make sure it’s correct (don’t worry if you can’t understand what they’re saying, a simple hai is sufficient). They’ll rip the tickets in two and leave you with a stub and take the other half off to the kitchen.
Then all you need to do is wait, and not that long either. Service in these kind of restaurants are fast. So it won’t be long until you’re greeted by your big bowl of Oyakodon, Nakau’s speciality dish of chicken, onion, soy and scrambled eggs on a bed of rice, or fried chicken, salad and miso in my case (I was trying to be healthy ok?).
Doesn’t it look delicious? It was a bargain too at ¥330 (£2.40/$3.10). I could eat here everyday, and when prices are that low it’s difficult not to resist!
Just as a bonus tip, if you’re at a restaurant that doesn’t have a ticket machine but has a button on the table, press it and it won’t be long until a waiter is over to take your order. There is a button at Nakau too, so if your food has come and you realised that there were no chopsticks on the table (I doubt that would ever happen), then press it and someone will be right over to help.
So that’s all for now folks,
I’ve been Wedy Jones.
Keep it Real, Keep it Nippon.