Pay peanuts, get monkeys

A Japanese restaurant has started using monkeys to wait tables. Could this employment trend catch on?

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

In these gloomy times, we think it's never been more important to keep our readers' spirits up. So we were delighted when news reached us from Japan about a novel approach to labour shortages: a traditional sake house near Tokyo called Kayabukiya has trained two macaque monkeys to act as waiters. Apparently the restaurant is using Yat-chan and Fuku-chan (as the monkeys are known to their friends) to serve drinks and supply hot towels between courses. And since they’re paid largely in soya beans, we imagine this is a good way of keeping down overheads.

The two monkeys apparently used to be pets of the owner Kaoru Otsuka, until he noticed that they started copying his waiting efforts (let’s hope the health and safety brigade weren’t in town for that one). So Otsuka did the obvious thing: he put them in a mini-kimono and set them to work. Yat-chan is apparently the sake expert, while Fuku-chan has the slightly more straightforward task of distributing towels. (We’re guessing this might sound like a six-month-early April Fool, but if you don’t believe us, you can see the evidence for yourself HERE.)

Strange though it may be, the restaurant’s customers don’t seem to be too worried about being served by a simian. In fact, some appear to consider it an improvement: ‘The monkeys are actually better waiters than some really bad human ones,’ one satisfied customer was reported as saying, while another claimed that Yat-chan could even understand them when they asked for more beer (as long as there was a soya bean in it for him, presumably). So if nothing else – and even more so given their new internet stardom – employing the monkeys has been a marketing triumph.

There’s only one small drawback. Those pesky stick-in-the-muds in the Japanese animal rights lobby have decreed that monkeys can only work in shifts of up to two hours a day (quite why the Japanese felt the need to legislate about monkey working hours is way beyond us, but we’ll let that slide for now). However, the ever-inventive Otsuka has a plan: apparently he’s training up three more monkeys to bolster the ranks. This could be the start of a monkey waiting dynasty.

Of course, this all begs the question: what other jobs could monkeys eventually inherit? They’re nimble, dextrous, can swing from high beams and demand virtually zero employment rights – which must make them an attractive proposition for any credit-crunched employer. Although come to think of it, maybe that’s how the investment banks got into their current mess...

Every day MT will be providing you with our very own Little Ray of Sunshine - our attempt to remind you that it's not all doom and gloom out there...

In today's bulletin:

Rates slashed as bail-out fails to calm jitters
Sainsbury bucks trend with sales hike
The true cost of the Icesave meltdown
Editor's blog: What does the crunch mean for you?
MT's Little Ray of Sunshine: Pay peanuts, get monkeys

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