Demae (Food Delivery) (出前)

Demae is a delivery service in which restaurants and food shops deliver dishes to customer's homes within a short space of time. It is also called 'shidashi' and the difference between demae and shidashi is described below.


Demae is a delivery service to deliver dishes which were cooked in restaurants and food shops to customer's home on their demands and its origin dates back to Edo period.

In the case of food shops without eating space and for delivery service only, delivery service is often called 'Delivery' (in English) not 'Demae,' but 'Demae' and 'Delivery' are not strictly distinguished. It is often called 'shidashi' when referring to the delivery of Japanese boxed meals and Sushi for celebrations and Buddhist memorial services, but the difference between 'demae' and 'shidashi' is also not strict.

One difference is that 'demae' often needs to be delivered quickly, whereas 'shidashi' and 'haitatsu' (delivery) (of foods like cake) can be ordered in advance.

Catering is a similar service. Catering is a service providing foods cooked in remote sites on customer's demands, such as customer's kitchens or a catering car. Demae' and 'shidashi' are both delivery services that provide ready-cooked meals, and are completely different from 'catering,' but the difference is not strictly defined in Japan.

Products and Services

Restaurants and shops that provide a 'demae' service without the need for preordering offer foods such as sushi, soba (buckwheat noodles), udon (wheat noodles), donburimono (rice dishes), ramen (Japanese noodles which originated in China), Chinese dishes, curry and rice, pizza and Western dishes. Most of those dishes are relatively inexpensive.

Party foods and funeral/banquet dishes are usually reserved and often called 'shidashi.'
Such dishes are difficult to prepare at home, troublesome or relatively expensive.

There are also 'demae' services for drinks provided for companies where employees and customers consume beverages such as coffee and juice. For convenience of delivery, details (contents or quantity) of food offered on 'Demae' service are sometimes different from those served at restaurants and shops.

Businesses Offering Demae and Shidashi

Soba restaurants

Chinese restaurants

Sushi restaurants

Pizza restaurants

- refer also to Pizza, Takuhai (delivery) Pizza


Coffee shops

Western restaurants

Japanese restaurants

Demae for Businesses
In some food businesses like Machiaichaya (a Japanese traditional business offering meeting place), all the foods are prepared using Shidashi service and served for the customers, instead of cooking by themselves.

As a modern form of that type of business in downtown, Demae service is sometimes limited to shops in neighborhood and individual order is not accepted. The advantage of using this service is that establishments do not need their own kitchen facilities and staff in order to offer a diverse range of foods to their customers.


In Japan, Demae order has been accepted mostly on the phone, but recently more and more restaurants and shops take orders by fax or from their websites on internet as a sort of mail order. Especially Demae portal sites on the internet have become popular since around 2000 and especially 'Demaekan' run by Yumenomachi Souzou-iinkai developed the system that the shops without internet can take orders from the internet and accounts for 90 % share of internet Demae orders.

Also in 2004, Gourmet Navigator Inc., a pioneering restaurant information portal site, started the 'Gournavi Delivery' service. Its share of the market is growing.


Delivery is usually free or already included in the price of the food and drink. Therefore the demae delivery of small quantities (such as a single portion) is not profitable, and some establishments only accept orders for "more than two portions," "more than 2000 yen," or state that "a delivery charge of 100 yen applies for orders of less than 1000 yen).


Food used to be delivered by someone riding a bicycle or motorcycle in a somewhat acrobatic style, holding onto a handle with one hand and an Okamochi (delivery box) with the other. The installation of the indicator light switch in an irregular position and the adoption of an automatic clutch on the Honda Cub motorized bicycle were out of consideration for the needs of delivery drivers. For safety reasons, however, it later became common for improved models of motorcycles, such as the Demae-ki (which was equipped with an Okamochi-dai, a fixture with springs and air cushions for the transportation of Okamochi), or a three-wheel motor scooter equipped with a carrier (e.g. Honda Gyro) to be used for delivering Okamochi.

Containers for food and drink are usually collected by the delivery establishment within a few hours or days after delivery, but recently the use of disposable containers is becoming more common in order to save the effort of collection.

Soba Restaurant Demae
Delay in accepting order and delivery is inherent in Demae service because of back-order, busy kitchen and traffic jam (especially evening traffic jam which occurs in the dinner time, is a great risk to Demae business).
It is said that soba restaurants often answer phone calls complaining of late deliveries by saying that "It has just been sent," and therefore simplistic excuses for delays are called 'soba-ya no demae.'

Delivery Methods




On foot

Demae in Other Countries

In Korea, Demae service is available traditionally in ordering Cha Jan Myon (Korean noodle dish that is popular among the people) like Ramen in Japan. As in Japan it is delivered by motorcycle and carrying Okamochi (called 'Tetsu Kaban (Iron Bag)'). In addition to cha jan myon, chanpon (a noodle dish), udon, fried rice and subuta (sweet and sour pork) are also delivered.

Recently, also Pizza and fried chicken are available on delivery and also some 'yatai' (food stall) offering Oden (Japanese stewed dish) and Toppokki (Korean stewed rice-cake) take orders of deliveries on cell phones.

On the other hand, in China and Southeast Asian countries, delivery service on foot is limited to the neighborhoods and delivery service by motorbike like Japan is not available. However, from around 2002, delivery by motorbike and bicycle has spread rapidly in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

[Original Japanese]