Overcoming the coronavirus pandemic: TUNA SCOPE adopted by Kura Sushi

ISSUED : 2020.7.7

Following restrictions on overseas travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Kura Sushi—a chain of sushi restaurants—was faced with a problem: it became difficult to purchase tuna based on on-site examinations. In July 2020, therefore, Kura Sushi made a decision to safeguard the quality of its tuna. It announced it would establish a new, remote style of purchasing that utilized TUNA SCOPE. It would use AI that had mastered the skill of tuna examination to attempt the first-ever online examination from Japan.

AI Tuna, its new product, would go on to become a massive hit, selling in excess of two million plates’ worth of sushi; it also attracted international attention, with reports from Reuters and other news agencies in 57 countries around the world. TUNA SCOPE has helped usher in the digital transformation of the fishing industry and turn the challenges of COVID-19 into a business opportunity. Here, we report on its developments thus far, and prospects for the future.

Overcoming the difficulties of the pandemic: AI rescues Kura Sushi from a purchasing crisis

Verification tests for TUNA SCOPE concluded successfully in 2019. A few months later, after it had become a hot topic, it piqued the interest of Kura Sushi, a leading chain of conveyor belt sushi restaurants. While Kura Sushi was considering whether or not to make use of TUNA SCOPE, the world was rocked by COVID-19. The company had previously purchased the majority of the fish and other seafood it used for its sushi overseas, but the pandemic now made it difficult to travel abroad to purchase tuna on-site.

But Kura Sushi had seen the potential for AI-based remote purchasing. Its idea was simple: by sending the TUNA SCOPE app overseas, they would be able to continue purchasing tuna in the same way as before. Real-time footage of Dalian’s tuna market was broadcast to DENTSU INC.’s Tokyo Head Office, and Kura Sushi made purchasing decisions based on AI evaluations. By using multiple smartphones all running the app simultaneously, the company could carry out quality assessments more quickly than before. This made it possible to select only the best quality fish from among several hundred tons of tuna.

The TUNA SCOPE project was born of a desire to pass down the expertise by which artisans made delicious tuna available throughout the world. It has now exceeded the original expectations of it and, for the fishing and restaurant industries, has evolved into a new solution for overcoming the COVID-19 crisis.

AI Tuna is a massive hit and captures global attention

In a press release in July 2020, Kura Sushi announced plans to serve tuna purchased remotely using TUNA SCOPE. It named its new product “AI Tuna.” AI Tuna became a massive hit, and sold three times more than forecast in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. As of 2021, AI Tuna continues to be sold whenever a new shipment arrives, and continues to receive widespread praise.

AI Tuna captured attention on a global scale: seen as a solution to overcoming COVID-19, it was featured by Reuters and more than 1,500 media outlets from 57 countries around the world. TUNA SCOPE now receives numerous inquiries from various companies and groups, including international buyers and the fishing industry.

TUNA SCOPE overcame the pandemic and brought innovation to the fishing industry. Going forward, by making Japan’s expert tuna examination skills available to everyone, we hope to contribute to the establishment of global quality standards for tuna, and help create a world where people can enjoy the same standard of delicious tuna wherever they are. We have taken a major first step toward this goal.