Earlier today, Anime News Network reported that Japanese maid cafe chain MaiDreamin will open an American branch. The company plans to open a location in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo district. They will hold employee auditions for the location’s opening next year. At the moment, MaiDreamin is also considering locations in New York City and Boston.
“Hey, cool! A maid café!”
Yes, dear reader. It’s like your Akihabara fantasy come to life! You can live the creepy dream of being served by maids and having women act like they only care about you! That said, I don’t foresee MaiDreamin making the numbers that they’re expecting from this American venture.
“What do you mean?”
Where can I begin with this? Let’s begin with the fact that similar ventures were attempted in California, Michigan, and Ontario:
- Royal/T Maid Café: Culver City
- Far Out Toys: San José
- Chou Anime Cafe: Detroit
- iMaid Cafe: Scarborough, Ontario
All three locations closed within a year of their opening, due to the fact that they were unable to procure a steady stream of customers (and, therefore, revenue). Ontario’s iMaid café was specifically cited as closing due to unpaid back rent. So, before we begin, why would a similar venture suddenly be profitable in today’s economy?
“Well, it’s a different time, and the economy…”
Still isn’t great. Things are indeed on an upswing, yes. However, they’re not at a point where a venture like MaiDreamin will be able to survive, let alone thrive, for a few months. Even iMaid, which opened before the economy bottomed out, was unable to last for more than twelve months before they needed to close their doors.
Personally, I foresee MaiDreamin having a fairly strong opening, as people will inevitably gather out of sheer curiosity. There is a sizable group that is interested in the idea of maid café culture due to exposure via anime, manga, or even specials on The Travel Channel. However, I don’t expect this buzz to last. As the novelty wears off, the traffic will surely slow, which will lead to the stagnation and reduced revenues that plagued the cafe’s predecessors. While loyal customers can support a business in some cases (mainly, when the group is large enough), I don’t see such a location garnering enough of an audience to sustain business without a constant injection of new blood.
While I’d love to be proven wrong in this, I can’t help but see the American branch of MaiDreamin being anything other than a bust waiting to happen. All data we have points to a general hostility toward the services being offered, mostly due to cultural differences. The location could absolutely help, but I’m skeptical that it would create a sufficient boost to keep such an establishment profitable.