Getting your name out there is a big deal for any company, and what better way to do that than with food and booze? Pop-up shops are a hallowed tradition in Japan, and the latest we were able to take part in was offered as part of a Valentine’s Day promotion by Netflix in Omotesando. But how did it hold up?
There were a lot of good things here. First, it should be noted that we went the second of two weekends the bar was open. Its whole theme centered around love stories you could enjoy on Netflix, with specialty drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) available for your purchase, as well as a few snack items.
The theme of the bar was the love stories offered on Netflix. Each movie or show had a specialty cocktail that came with a coaster explaining the show, complete with a QR code to take you to that show’s page. Upstairs in the bar, for an extra fee, you could watch Love Actually while enjoying your drinks and snacks. To be clear, the bar itself was 100% free to enter.
Let’s begin with pricing: Some bars and pop-ups will have a slightly inflated price because of the special gimmick or high-end products they offer. The Netflix Bar had some of the most reasonable prices I’ve seen. No seating fee, drinks from 500-700 yen ($4.53-6.34), and snacks floating around 400-500 yen ($3.62-4.53).
The snacks were standard fare: cheese and olives, popcorn, and a hearty sandwich. The drinks were reasonable as well, but if you’re not a fan of sweet drinks, you’re out of luck because they really leaned heavily into sugary drinks for this pop-up.
The seating was nice, albeit a bit sparse for the space. There were plenty of comfy plush chairs for you to enjoy Netflix. Did I mention they had tablets and headphones for you to view anything on Netflix during your stay? Your limit there is one hour, but if you wanted to test drive Netflix (assuming you aren’t leeching from a friend or family member), then you had a really nice environment to do so. Very few people were taking advantage, the tablets resting with blackened screens on the tables, opting to chat with dates and friends instead.
So, it all sounds good, but there were a few things about this experience that lowered the overall score for me.
First, the service was not good. In Japan, the standards for service are pretty high, but even by my lowly American standards, it was pretty subpar. They had an insane amount of staff there–outnumbering guests there at least 2:1–and still, there were issues. It was a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen,” if you ask me. My wife ordered one drink, based on Bridget Jones’ Baby, but instead got a completely different drink. They were quick to bring her corrected order. We had also ordered two snacks but only received one. After about 20 minutes, we flagged someone down and they brought it out a few minutes later. It seemed like there were all these soldiers but no generals to lead them. I will give credit where credit is due: they had a very healthy and robust number of staff members who could use English and they had English menus, which is always greatly appreciated for the kanji-deficient among us.
Another negative was the overall vibe and decor. It was just so… sterile. Aside from the “N” statue and Netflix-branded cushions, you couldn’t tell this bar from any other standard cafe in Tokyo. There wasn’t much pizazz to set this experience apart from other cafes or bars. The option to watch free Netflix was nice but ill-conceived; people go to bars to be social, not to Netflix and chill. They had a lot of good intentions and hopeful ideas but the execution was not what it should have been.
Overall, for the price and wait time, it was a nice way to spend an hour with friends. I think there were better ways Netflix could have structured this experience because the one I got was underwhelming.