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August 23, 2022

On August 17, WeChat screenshots of conversations between staff and management at Japanese sushi restaurant Sushiro began circulating online. Managers within the establishment in Fuli Haizhu City, in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district, told staff that they were forbidden from speaking Cantonese during work time. 

Workers were told they were not allowed to speak Cantonese because other staff and customers came from different provinces and, therefore, they should only speak Mandarin, regardless of what dialect customers used. 

Staff was also told that if they were caught speaking Cantonese (or swearing) they would be severely punished. 

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A screenshot of the store manager’s message saying anyone caught speaking Cantonese should be reported to him and will be punished.

This new “regulation” was quickly pounced upon by netizens on Weibo, Douyin, Xiaohongshu and Dazhong Dianping, where numerous Cantonese-speaking users strongly condemned Sushiro and its manager. 

Netizens argued that to operate a restaurant in Cantonese-speaking areas, Sushiro should follow the traditions of that area. Moreover, many people said they would never visit Sushiro again and have started giving the restaurant bad reviews on Dianping, China’s version of Yelp.

On the same day, Sushiro apologized for the manager’s mistake. The company claimed that it never banned workers from speaking Cantonese, only suggesting that staff should prioritize Mandarin. 

They also said that the store manager will be punished. 

Despite the apology, many netizens feel that Sushiro failed to sympathize with Cantonese-speaking staff.

As a foreign-owned enterprise, Sushiro faced problems when entering the Chinese market. 

The restaurant was founded in 1984 in Japan and came to China in 2017. It’s known for low-priced sushi. 

Sushiro began developing in the Southeast Asia market after sales dropped in Japan. It has opened around 40 stores across China, Singapore and South Korea, with seven of said stores in Guangzhou.

However, multiple management incidents have occurred. 

In Hong Kong, workers were forced to speak Japanese. In Japan, Sushiro faked Japanese Unagi with Chinese Unagi. It also had no sea urchin sushi in 98.1% of the stores, despite them claiming that this type of sushi was their specialty.

[Images via Weibo]

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