Ichiran Ramen started as a street side ramen cart. Looked at where it is today.
The system was so methodological. You walk into one of these shop, usually in the cheaper rental location like basement, side of the building next to the fire exit, etc. You get confronted with a vending machine. Choice what you want, pay and get a token.
Walked in, see the seating arrangement, and then moved to the nearest empty booth. The sensor in the booth will noticed that it was occupied and update the billboard. You then proceed to “customise” your order – how soft you want the ramen, al dente or no teeth soft. How strong you want your broth. Do you want scallions. Do you need extra noodles. As long as you have soup, you can ask for noodle refills.
Then slip the order through the window, and magically 5 min later, the window slid open and you are served, This would be the first time you actually see an actual person in the shop.
I am not sure about the whole experience. The ramen was great, the soup base was creamy with a strong pork bone taste. It was predictable and many other ramen stores offer the same high standard.
However, the SOP. You either love it or hate it. It was a calming factor if you just had a long night out entertaining customers, and you cannot bring yourself to talk to another human being. All you wanted was a quiet bowl of ramen, and then Ichiran was it. No need for small talk with the ramen chef, not need to talk to anyone, just walk it, order, sit down, eat, leave.
The whole experience was actually quite melancholy. I could not help but felt lonely in the city of 35MN people.
Ichiran Ramen is could all over Japan.