What’s the big deal with family restaurants in Japan? In line with their name, family restaurants ファミリーレストラン, or fami-resu ファミレス for short, target families, with a variety of tasty, affordable and kid-friendly food options. Craving Italian? Check out Popolamama or Saizeriya. What about Chinese? Try Bamiyan. Or want traditional Japanese? Try Sato. There are limitless options of family restaurants that will suit your family’s desires.

Are family restaurants only for families? Surprisingly, no! Family restaurants are beloved study spots for students, hang-out spots for young people, and places to relax for workers on their way home from a busy day at work. Don’t be surprised to go to a family restaurant at any hour of the day and find a high school student studying for her next big exam or a group of businessmen taking a work break.

Curious about the history? The first family restaurant Royal (Royal Host’s predecessor) made its debut in Japan at the Osaka World Fair in 1970 when “western dishes” were starting to become popular. A chef was even brought in from the renowned Hotel New Grand in Yokohama. At the fair, they sold over 2000 hamburger steak dishes a day. It was so popular that the first official Royal Host restaurant then opened in Kita-Kyushu city the following year. That same year Gusto’s predecessor Skylark opened its first restaurant in Fuchu city. The most popular dish was the hamburger steak with egg. And now the rest is history!

According to Goo Ranking in October 2021, the top family restaurants in 2021 were: 1) Saizeriya, 2) Gusto, 3) Bikkuri Donkey, 4) Royal Host and 5) Joyful.

What’s the appeal of family restaurants in Japan? Whether it’s the easy ordering, the variety of choices at the drink bar or seasonal food items, family restaurants are one of Japan’s well-loved gems. Read on to find out why you should make your next outing to the local family restaurant.


Easy Ordering

Most family restaurants have touch-panel ordering which makes it easy for you to look through the vast menu and order at your convenience. Want another plate of French fries? Just add it to your order without having to call over a server.

Open 24 Hours

Many family restaurants are open 24 hours, so if you need to pull an all-nighter or just need a midnight snack, your local family restaurant is the place to go. If you’re on a trip, I hear it’s common to spend all night at a family restaurant to save on lodging costs as well.

Drink Bar

One of the draws of a family restaurant is the drink bar corner. By paying just a small fee, you can have access to numerous choices of both hot and cold beverages. Recently, the soda machine offers extra flavors that can be added to your drink. Want a cherry coke? What about a grape Calpis? Just click the flavor option and indulge in a new flavor combination.


With the release of smartphone coupon apps, family restaurants made sure to jump on this bandwagon! The Skylark chain has their own coupon app, and other restaurants like Bikkuri Donkey, Coco’s, Denny’s and Big Boy have their own apps as well. You can find coupons for the admired drink bar, desserts and other dishes. Don’t pass up this easy way to get discounted food!


Eating out for breakfast is not as common in Japan. And up until a few years ago, it was quite difficult to find an affordable “western-style breakfast” option. Many Japanese who want a quick bite to eat in the morning will opt for the convenience store or Japanese rice bowl fast food option. But in recent years, a few family restaurant chains have started offering breakfast options. Coco’s is most well-known for its “morning buffet”. Other restaurants that offer breakfast sets include Jonathan’s, Gusto, Denny’s, Royal Host and Saizeriya. But take note: check your local family restaurant’s menu, as breakfast is not offered at all locations.

Quick Service

Family restaurants are known for their quick food service. So if you’re in a hurry but not wanting the fast food option, a family restaurant is the place for you. Most meals will be brought out in no more than 10-15 minutes.

Seasonal Food

Family restaurants are up on the seasonal specialties. So if you’re craving a strawberry dessert in the winter, your local family restaurant will probably offer such a treat. Or what about cold noodles in the summer? Gusto is currently offering a few seasonal (and local) specialties like Setonaikai salted lemon noodles and Nagasaki seafood noodles. Coco’s June menu has a summer vegetables and steamed chicken cold noodles and lemon-flavored desserts.


Which family restaurant do you enjoy going to? And what reasons would you add to the list above?