Call Buttons in Japanese Restaurants
The Server Call Button
Many restaurants in Japan, chain restaurants in particular, will have special call buttons at the table. These buttons are used, as you might expect, to summon a server to your table. I find this system to be highly preferable to the way its done in the states where you just have to do the best you can to get someone's attention as servers float around the restaurant.
The particular call button on the left here doubles as a napkin holder. Most are not this fancy however and simply look like small round discs with a single button in the center.
Yet another Japanese restaurant related improvement is the use of technology assisted order tracking. As you place your order (or point your order) your server keys in the details on a small hand held computer. This computer in turn, immediately sends the order to the kitchen. This automation cuts down on ordering and kitchen errors by about a factor of 1000.
This system is made possible due to the fact that people rarely, if ever, deviate from the exact menu in Japan. There is no, "hold the mayo on mine" or "can I have that with the potatoes instead of the rice" in Japan. Unless the menu states otherwise, then there are no options. This is just how it's done in Japan. This also means that every conceivable order will already be defined in the computer system, thus resulting in far fewer mistakes.
The mom and pop style Japanese restaurants will usually lack these fancy ordering systems. These restaurants are usually miniscule in size anyway, frequently seating less than 10 people. With only a handful of patrons, and all within 15 feet of each other, issues of misplaced orders or a lack of server attention rarely exist.