Japanese karaoke chain Manekineko offers full buffet spreads

Manekineko Orchard Cineleisure is offering customers karaoke packages that come with buffet spreads

Rooms at Manekineko Orchard Cineleisure come with illustrations of the mascot cat.
Rooms at Manekineko Orchard Cineleisure come with illustrations of the mascot cat.PHOTO: JAPAN PR AGENCY

Karaoke fans can now tuck into a buffet spread and sing their hearts out at Manekineko Orchard Cineleisure.

The flagship outlet of Manekineko, one of Japan's most popular karaoke chains, opens today, after a 150- million yen (S$2-million) facelift of the former K Box outlet.

Manekineko bought over local karaoke chain K Box, which had 11 outlets, earlier this year. Seven of the former K Box outlets, including the one at Orchard Cineleisure, have been renovated. The other outletsare in locations such as Bugis+, Marina Square, *Scape and various Safra clubs.

Manekineko Orchard Cineleisure, which occupies 2,218 sq m on the eighth floor of the mall, offers karaoke packages that come with full buffet spreads of local, Japanese and international cuisine. Most karaoke chains typically serve only drinks and light snacks.

The buffet is available daily from 6 to 10pm, and is also open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 3pm. The lunch buffet costs $20 a person. Dinner is $32 from Mondays to Thursdays and on Sundays, and $40 on Fridays and Saturdays.

The prices of the buffets include a three-hour karaoke session as well as free-flow soft or hot drinks. The buffet is available only at Orchard Cineleisure.

The a la carte menu features Japanese and local snack platters. Local food includes laksa ($9.90) and chicken rendang with rice ($10.90), while Japanese offerings include dishes such as yakiniku beef don ($11.90) and roasted baby ribs tonkotsu ramen ($10.90).

The food can be consumed in the dining area or brought back to the karaoke rooms. Prices for karaoke sessions without the buffet are $15 to $35 a person, depending on the day and time.

Each of the 80 brightly coloured rooms is painted with the company's cat mascot (manekineko means "beckoning cat" in Japanese and is considered a lucky charm in Japanese culture) and has a Japanese-made karaoke machine with a library of 150,000 songs in languages such as English, Mandarin, Korean and Malay. The songs will be updated fortnightly, taking into account the latest releases and customer requests.

The establishment also boasts a full-fledged bar serving Japanese beers such as Asahi and Sapporo, as well as whiskies such as Hibiki, Yamazaki and Hakushu. There are also five VIP rooms with pool tables and a function hall that can hold 150 people for events.

Manekineko also plans to introduce a mobile app called Skit that allows for song selection, personalisation and control of the karaoke system. The technology is available only to Manekineko customers in Japan, but Koshidaka International, which owns Manekineko, is "reviewing when to introduce this to the Singapore market".

Koshidaka International started acquiring shares in K Box in September last year and assumed full ownership earlier this year.

Manekineko has 420 outlets in Japan and 13 in South Korea. Singapore marks its first foray outside East Asia and the company also hopes to expand to other South-east Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Mr Akira Zama, 44, chief executive officer of Koshidaka Singapore, says: "By establishing Manekineko in Singapore, we hope to springboard our expansion into South-east Asia in the coming year, and in Europe and North America as well."

As for Singapore, the company hopes to "double both the sales revenue and the number of outlets", Mr Zama adds.

Will Manekineko's buffet offerings draw karaoke fans?

Mr Jason Fu, 28, a graphic designer who frequents local karaoke chains such as Teo Heng and Cash Studio monthly, says he does not mind trying it out.

However, he is unlikely to be won over by the buffet spread as he is happy with just tidbits and drinks during karaoke. "The time is limited, so I won't spend my time eating instead of singing," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2016, with the headline 'Enjoy a feast as you karaoke'. Subscribe