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Meaty benefits help draw older customers

The Yomiuri Shimbun

An elderly couple enjoy eating meat at a One Calbi yakiniku restaurant in Kodaira, Tokyo.

By Reiko Bando / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterMore and more meat-centered restaurants are giving discounts and other privileges to seniors who may tend to avoid eating meat. These restaurants also emphasize the benefits of eating meat, such as effective protein intake, in an attempt to encourage older people to visit their establishments.

One Calbi, a yakiniku grilled meat restaurant chain with about 80 outlets mainly in the Kansai region, opened its first outlet in Tokyo in April 2018. At the restaurant in Kodaira, about 30 percent of customers are people in their 50s and older.

Discounts are the reason. The two-hour, 95-item, all-you-can-eat course costs ¥3,866 per person, with a 10 percent discount for customers in their 50s, 20 percent for those in their 60s and 30 percent for those 70 and older. While customers need to notify the staff when ordering, they are not required to prove their age.

Invited by their son in his 40s, a couple in their 70s were visiting the restaurant for the first time. “The 30 percent discount is a nice service for pensioners,” the woman said while dining on thick skirt and loin. Although they previously made few visits to yakiniku restaurants, “We didn’t know how delicious the meat is. We want to come here again,” she said.

The restaurant endeavors to explain the benefits of eating meat, such as its high-quality protein content, while placing a display saying “Meat-eating seniors are increasing” on the table. “Some elderly customers eat as much meat as young people do,” the restaurant’s manager said.

Since 2013, One Calbi has offered discounts to attract older customers who hesitate to go to all-you-can-eat restaurants because they cannot eat very much.

Ikinari Steak, a steak restaurant chain with about 430 restaurants across the country, has offered a free “senior card” to customers in their 70s and older since 2016. While customers are required to show ID to get the card, cardholders can benefit from various advantages when showing it at the chain’s restaurants, such as getting a free drink and being given priority for entering when customers are lining up.

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  • Courtesy of Pepper Food Service Co.

    A senior card provided by Ikinari Steak restaurants

According to Pepper Food Service Co., the Tokyo-based operator of the restaurant chain, it decided to introduce the senior card hoping “to increase the number of healthy elderly people by offering meat” because its founder, Kunio Ichinose, 76, is still healthy and active thanks to eating steak.

Gyu-Kaku, a major yakiniku restaurant chain, offers customers ages 65 and older a ¥500 discount on the prices of three all-you-can-eat courses if they show ID.

The older people get, the less often they tend to eat meat. According to the 2017 National Health and Nutrition Survey conducted by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, people in their 20s obtained 29.7 percent of their protein from meat, while the percentages declined to 19.5 percent among those in their 60s, 16.3 percent among those in their 70s and 15.4 percent for those in their 80s and older.

“Many elderly people stop eating meat because of their decreasing amount of activity and declining ability to chew caused by aging,” said Miki Narita, a national registered dietician and researcher at the Tokyo Metropolitan Geriatric Medical Center. “Some avoid eating meat due to concerns over cholesterol levels and lifestyle-related diseases.”

However, she added, red meat such as beef is an excellent food that allows efficient intake of protein, fats and iron.

Narita recommends people in their 70s and older eat about 50 grams to 100 grams of meat a day.

“You don’t need to worry too much about it, but if you think you didn’t eat meat on one day, eat some the next day, or if you think you ate too much meat on one day, avoid eating any the next day,” she said. “It’s important to enjoy well-balanced meals. Eating out sometimes can give you good stimulation.”

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