Omakase: New Age Outsourcing of Decision-Making

Diners in Singapore can merely toss an imaginary pebble in the vicinity of the city centre and you are guaranteed to hit an Omakase restaurant. But what is Omakase? Why the craze behind its emergence as the go-to customer proposition for restaurateurs and chefs? And whilst equally adored by diners.  

I am sure most readers are at least mildly familiar with the word, “Omakase”. Omakase is the Japanese word for “Chef’s choice” or “Leave it up to you”. This word is better known as a popularised dining proposition, deferring the menu decisions over to the chef’s selection for your dining experience.  

Whilst researching the history of Omakase for this column, I was surprised with its origins being relatively infant. Omakase dates back a short skip and a jump to the 1990s. This concept emerged as the preferred offering in sushi restaurants, mainly due to the chef’s desire for offering only the freshest fish purchased that morning from the market. If looking at freshness and seasonality of produce in isolation, this style of dining offering makes complete sense. After all, restaurants can adorn the most stylish decor, the most astute service team and all at great prices. However, if the produce is not fresh, your business life cycle clock just skipped a few beats. I have always boldly stated that the food and beverage industry in Singapore regulates itself. Quite simply, if a bar or restaurant does not tick all the right boxes, time and time again, then your days are unfortunately, numbered. On the contrary, if you are consistent in all facets of service, atmosphere and food quality with a “reasonable” price tag, the market is your oyster, with longevity (and survival!) being the prize.   

I believe it is evident to most that one of the keys to a great meal is the quality and freshness of produce. But how do restaurants better manage costly perishable ingredients with unknown customer volume? The answer is, offer Omakase!  

The concept of Omakase is rapidly emerging within other purchasing decisions outside of dining. I recently realised my haircut has been Omakase for the better part of a decade, without too many reported issues. I am sure many of us use Omakase regularly. One purchase that springs to mind as a regular Omakase purchase is specifically French wine. However, this is not surprising given the sheer number of Chateaus exporting their clarets to the international market. My wife is a massive Omakase cocktail fan. Our go-to seating location is always at the bar, front and centre, chatting with the mixologist and watching the action. I have come to realise the notable purpose of this preferred seating location is for ease and speed of Cindy’s Omakase cocktail ordering.  

My personal consensus of Omakase in our daily lives is concrete. 21st Century life appears to be growing busier, so why not leave the wining, dining and haircut (this takes trust) up to the professionals. After all, aren’t surprises fun?