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Japan Sushi Chain Installs AI camera system to Thwart Customer Meddling

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A camera, top right, monitors a conveyor-belt food lane at a Kura Sushi outlet in Osaka on Thursday.

Kura Sushi Inc. on Thursday introduced high-tech cameras at its outlets to monitor conveyor-belt food lanes after a spate of incidents in which customers tampered with foods and utensils.

The major sushi chain operator’s system uses artificial intelligence to detect suspicious behavior, such as the repeated opening or closing of sushi plate covers, allowing store employees to deal with inappropriate activity. The cameras are installed at each table and constantly monitor plates as they move around the food lanes.

When dubious behavior is detected, the system automatically alerts the group’s headquarters in Osaka or its Saitama Prefecture office, each of which is staffed by six to seven people at a time. The offices then contact the restaurant by phone after confirming via video that inappropriate activity has occurred.

The outlets intend to take such action as collecting the plates in question and talking to the customers. The firm also is expected to report cases of mischief to the police.

Kura Sushi consulted with the police after a widely spread internet video showed a customer removing and returning a sushi dish to the food lane. The company subsequently altered its operational practices, and now replaces condiments and other table items for each new customer.

In February, Sushiro sushi chain operator Akindo Sushiro Co. stopped serving items other than those directly ordered by customers.

Other companies also have been stepping up measures against nuisance behavior.