Japan’s “Go To Eat” Campaign: What You Need to Know

What it is, where to sign up and how to get discounts

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The second stage of the government’s plans to re-energize the hospitality, travel, and retail landscape is just on the horizon. It comes in the form of the restaurant-centric “Go To Eat” campaign, a subsidy program offering discounts on dining out.

Mid-July saw the roll-out of the slightly bungled Go To Travel campaign, a government initiative to help stimulate Japan’s post-Covid-19 economy, with a focus on the previously booming travel sector. The campaign, which later barred Tokyoites from eligibility last minute to prevent the spread of Covid-19 (Tokyo will most likely be added to the campaign from October 1 unless infection rates surge again), is a subsidy program of sorts, allowing applicants to have half their travel spending covered by the government, as we informed you in an article on it back in July

Reports claim that Japan’s restaurant industry’s bankruptcies jumped 13.2% from last year totaling around 583 throughout the country for the period between January and August. Those worst hit are specialty restaurants, like Chinese, Japanese, yakiniku (Japanese BBQ), ramen stores, and bars and beer halls. The government hopes that the Go To Eat campaign will be the antidote to this frankly scary situation. 

What is the “Go To Eat” Campaign?

This new campaign is the “dining out” version of the Go To initiative, aimed to help stimulate the local hospitality economy and drive business to restaurants and dining establishments who have suffered huge economic impacts as a result of Covid-19. By offering to subsidize diners’ meals, hopes are it will encourage folks to give their UberEats accounts a rest for a bit and get back to dining out — safely — spending up big in their favorite local haunts. 

The campaign is for those wanting to get back out there and dine in the participating restaurants. There’s no eligibility clause, and you don’t have to be a Japanese national or resident to use the program. All you need to do is purchase the coupons from participating sellers. 

Although the government’s first Go To project hasn’t yet even been accessible for Tokyo locals, it looks like the precedent set by the campaign is achieving its desired effects for participating businesses. 

“The Go To Travel campaign has been working well for us,” explained a PR representative at Halekulani, a new resort in Okinawa’s main Naha island. “Because the rooms are subsidized, guests are choosing to spend more and book luxury level accommodations, and our upcoming capacity is sitting at 75%. Now that Tokyoites will be allowed soon, we can see they’re also booking trips using the campaign.” So, it’s fair to assume that it will offer some relief for local restaurants and hospitality establishments.

How to get the campaign discounts and what are the conditions

The campaign will see diners receive coupons with a value of 25% higher than the cost price, which essentially means that you’ll get a 25% discount on your meal. There are two systems through which customers can take advantage of the subsidy. You can either buy prepaid coupons (also referred to as discount vouchers, meal tickets, or in Japanese, premium meal vouchers) or join the points program. They’re a little different, so let’s break it down. 

Go To Eat Coupons (aka premium meal voucher)

This is a meal voucher that customers can buy from participating outlets. The voucher gives the customer an additional 25% spending power and costs ¥10,000 each; therefore, the coupon value is ¥12,500. The maximum amount of vouchers a person can buy at one time is ¥20,000 (value = ¥25,000). The vouchers/coupons will be sold until January 2021 and are valid until the end of March 2021. 

They will be region-specific, which means vouchers you buy in Tokyo can’t be used in Osaka. Also, no change will be given to customers paying with a meal voucher, so you’d better max it out. 

Where you can buy the vouchers and from when depends on each prefecture. Currently, 33 of the country’s 47 prefectures, including Tokyo, have decided to offer the vouchers. They’ll be available both as online and physical tickets, depending on the prefecture. Japanese site Travelers Navi keeps an up-to-date list on the areas currently offering the vouchers, some are available to purchase, and others are still setting up homepages.

Go To Eat Points System

This one is a little more convoluted than the coupon system, but if there’s one thing you’ll learn, spending money in Japan is that the industry loves point-based systems. The points program allows customers to earn discounts on upcoming meals by booking through participating in online reservation sites. 

For each lunch you book via this initiative, you’ll earn ¥500 to put toward future meals, and for every dinner, you’ll receive ¥1,000. The points are awarded after you pay for your meal. This is eligible for each customer, so say, for example, you go out for lunch with three friends, the total amount of points earned will be ¥1,500. 

To sign up and start collecting your points, you’ll have to book through one of the participating reservation sites, including Gurunavi, EPARK Gourmet, Recruit, and Kakaku. Gurunavi have already set up their Go To Eat homepage where you can read more about the system, but it hasn’t yet launched, so no booking just yet!

What restaurants are participating and where to find them?

As far as we can tell, there’s no definitive list of the participating outlets, unfortunately. Restaurants have to apply and be approved to be part of the campaign. The best bet is to check online via the booking sites to see whether your favorite restaurant is listed as a participating store.

When does the campaign start?

It’s touted to kick off at the end of September, but there’s no nation-wide starting date. With a focus on keeping infection numbers low, there’s also a chance that densely populated regions or areas with higher infection rates will delay the roll-out until officials deem it safe. We’ll keep you updated!  

For more information on the Go To Travel Campaign, see here. For more information on the Go To Eat Campaign, see here (Japanese only). 

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