This post is also available in: French
Here is my experience at Butler Cafe Shibuya, and let me tell you it was unpleasant. I will explain why here.
Since I’m in Japan, I like to go to theme bars such as the Maid Cafe, School Girl cafe, Zauo Izakaya, cat cafe or even the Lockup Shinjuku. Today I will talk about my experience at Butler Cafe Shibuya.
Butler Cafe: what is it?
Many know the Maid Cafe, these theme bars where young ladies, dressed in maid outfit, serve you drinks while playing with you and entertaining you. Well, the Butler cafe is supposed to be the male version of the Maid Cafe.
Here, no young ladies to serve you, but young men dressed in butler outfits. They are at your service and fussing over you. The peculiarity of the Butler Cafe Shibuya, is that the server are not Japanese and all speak English only.
The clientele is predominantly female and goes there to practice their English in a different atmosphere. So far, the concept seems nice. But once inside, everything is not perfect, far from it.
At the Butler Cafe, everything is forbidden …
When we arrived at the Butler Cafe, the reception was cold. No smile from the server or manager. The staging of the handing crowns to the princesses (each female client is given a crown and is considered as a princess) was brief and soporific.
After that began the worst thing that is given to me to see in a cafe or restaurant. The manager came to see us and we started listing to all the forbidden things we can’t do in this place. As far as we listened, we felt that we had no right to do anything: not allowed to take pictures (except of food and ourselves) , not the right to use the bell to call the server in a repetitive manner, forced to consume two products per person per two hours, not allowed to go to the toilet without being accompanied by a Butler, no right to leave the cafe without the escort of a Butler, forbidden to speak at Butler escorting another person …. For 5 minutes it was an unlikely list of things that were forbidden.
The impression it gave us was that we only had the right to eat and pay. So we asked ourselves why make such a place, with such surroundings and such a concept if we can’t do anything. And then we opened the menus and found the rates. We immediately realized that we had to spend at least 3000 yen per person, for the right to do nothing, except eating.
… and the service was aweful
In addition to these prohibitions, we quickly realized the quality of service was too oppressive. We were constantly watched by one or more Butler and manager. There was always someone to watch us or who was standing next to our table without moving.
The food was cold and almost inedible. It was frozen meals barely warmed. Even better, in one of the dishes was a piece of metal from a tin. When we pointed out to the Butler we did not even have the right to an apology. He simply took the metal tip and disappeared.
The Butlers were supposed to play a role and treat us as high quality customers but in the end we ended up served as vulgar crap. I do not mince my words because it was really terrible, given what was supposed to be offered to us.
Clearly, the atmosphere was nonexistent, the prices were exorbitant, the service was awful, the food was disgusting and we were banned from doing anything … But it does not stop there.
I would point out that in our group we had two girls and that the treatment was the same for them.
Butler Cafe Shibuya: behind the scenes
Before we got into the Butler Cafe, in October 2012, I conducted a small research to know how this place functioned. My curiosity was aroused by a recruitment advertisement for that place, published on the website Craig’s List. I saw this ad being published several times during months and so I asked myself why it was always displayed. By doing a little research I quickly understood why: it has a lot of turnover in the cafe and employees do not stay long because the working conditions are not satisfactory.
But before going into detail, I suggest you see their ad published May 23, 2013 on the Craig’s List website (the same ad is published repeatedly):
Waiter job at concept cafe (Shibuya Tokyo)
We are looking for polite, elegant waiters who live in Japan and are fluent in English to work in our butler cafe.
Applicants must hold working holiday, work permit, student visa or must be able to work in Japan.
We are a concept cafe / restaurant, so you should be elegant, good actor and able to perform and speak with customer.
This themed cafe places emphasis on making its female customers feel like princesses.
The butlers act accordingly, providing a welcoming environment and give each princess a unique, individual experience.
Butlers need to have exceptional people skills, be punctual and have a strong work ethic.
Applicants who are solely looking for a place to make money are not of interest to us.
Rather, we are looking for those with a genuine passion for serving, pleasing and entertaining others.
No waiter experience necessary.
We want “only person who is living in Japan now” and “has visa that permits work in Japan”.
Please send us resume or your information if you are in Japan with it.
We look forward to hearing from you!
When you read this announcement, you may find that they require you to be a very good actor, to have a unique profile, to be stylish and they tell you that they are not looking for people who want to earn money. And it is because the required skills are high, but the pay is miserable: 900 Yen per hour during training and 1000 Yen per hour thereafter.
To highlight their concept, they put forward a CNN article that praised their concept, an article that has been written by a journalist who has been served as a real princess (she must have been identified as a journalist since she had the right to take pictures for his article):
I had the opportunity to talk with people who worked there, or read testimonials on the net, and I can tell you that working conditions are not worth the salary offered. What emerges from these experiments is that the requested actions (be a great actor, extremely polite, helpful, …) and the salary is not the same. But in addition to this, a lot of pressure seems to be on the shoulders of the Butlers by their management, to push them to sell additional products to their customers (photos with the Butlers, special menus) … The Butlers touch indeed a percentage on these additional sales.
That would be because of the working conditions that employees leave the job quickly and the Butler Cafe must continuously recruit new Butler.
Here is my experience in this themed cafe, the worst I’ve known for the moment, in Japan. Personally, I would not recommend it.
Have you tried it? Would you get there or work there?